I was recently honored with the opportunity to interview Dr. Jenna A. Bell, PhD, RD.
Dr. Jenna A. Bell is the co-author of “Energy to Burn: The Ultimate Food & Nutrition Guide to Fuel your Active Lifestyle” (John Wiley & Sons 2009) and “Launching Your Dietetics Career” (ADA 2011).
Dr. Jenna’s expertise has been featured in Us Weekly, Self Magazine, Fitness magazine, Pilates Style, Men’s Health, Runner’s World, IDEA Fitness Journal, IDEA Health and Fitness Source, IDEA Personal Trainer, other print publications and on the web. She’s been published in scientific journals, and appeared on the Daily Buzz, ABC, NBC and FOX affiliates, local and national radio programs and podcasts. She is also on the Chair of the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group.
Dr. Bell let me have the floor and ask as many questions as my heart desired- I am a huge healthie, so this is right up my alley!
There are so many diet plans out there (paleo, gluten-free, raw vegan, etc.)- what is the best diet to eat healthy and lose weight and still remain healthy at the same time?
Not only are there so many diet plans, there are so many ways to eat healthfully. They all, however, have common denominators: heavy on the fruits and vegetables, achieve adequate protein from high quality sources, meet our needs for vitamins and minerals – including those found in whole grains and dairy, match the demands of our activities (the right amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight) and include a variety of foods on a daily basis. You really can’t go wrong if you eat a variety of foods within the right amount of calories. How do you know you’re doing this? Check for color – lots of color often equals lots of variety. Ask yourself if you’re eating from a variety of foods groups – am I eating foods that fall into the whole grain category, do I include veggies, fruits, lean meats or plant-based protein sources, are “good” fats enjoyed, such as nuts, plant-based oils, avocados? If you answer no to any of these questions, you may need more variety!
Is gluten really bad for us?
No. No. No. Research has shown that limiting or omitting gluten helps reduce symptoms and the progression of Celiac Disease – but for the vast number of us that have not been diagnosed with this genetic disorder, gluten is not bad.
What is the best way to speed up a sluggish metabolism?
Get more muscles. How to do this: strength training exercise with adequate protein. Fuel your workout with a high quality protein – think eggs, a reputable whey protein supplement (I recommend Abbott’s EAS Sports Nutrition’s EAS Complete Protein, which offers 25 grams of protein as well as calcium, fiber, and a host of other vitamins and nutrients), lean meats and poultry. It takes work to initiate the muscle building process and protein to make it happen.
What are the healthiest foods for anti-aging?
The natural compounds found in fruits and vegetables may possess anti-aging qualities. They may help lower inflammation associated with aging and chronic disease. They also have antioxidant properties to ward off illness and strengthen the immune system. Also, high quality protein is important as we age – muscle loss (or sarcopenia) is far too common and some old fashioned exercise and a high quality protein will help.
Is it possible to eat TOO little and gain weight?
It’s definitely possible to eat too little and lose muscle mass while preserving body fat. In order to maintain your muscles, you need fuel. Eat too little and your body composition will suffer. Will you lose weight? It’s likely – but not in the say you want – no aims for a skinny fat body.
Why do I crave salty foods, like chips at night?
Because you like them. If you’re hungry and bored, what are you going to turn to? Something you like to munch on…like chips. So make sure you have a health dinner and if you need a later evening snack – reach for a Greek yogurt or string cheese to give your body some protein or even a yummy bowl of oatmeal to hold you over and keep you away from the junkier foods.
What is one of the healthiest things that we can do for ourselves?
Be happy. In my experience as a registered dietitian and exercise physiologist, it’s really tough to care about what you eat and become more physically active if you’re bummed out. I think that happiness can lead to other positive behavior changes.
What are the healthiest foods that we should have in our diet?
Again, I refer back to variety - you’d be hard pressed to avoid healthy foods if you ate a variety of foods every day within your calorie limits. If you want a short list, here are my favorites: oatmeal – the fiber in oats is beta-glucan (similar only to the fiber in barley) and it supports heart health and makes you feel full longer. Oats also contain an antioxidant (called Avenanthramides) with promising data on it’s unique and powerful pro-health benefits.
I also think that berries, like blackberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries are amazing. Those dark colors stem from their powerful phytochemicals that have anti-aging and health promoting properties.
Eggs, Greek yogurt and whey protein are pretty great with their high quality protein and versatility (if you’re looking to shed pounds, EAS Lean 15 Protein Powder is only 100 calories per serving, and includes 15 grams of protein plus 5 grams of fiber – both of which help you manage appetite). I also love the research showing that whey is topnotch for muscle growth (via protein synthesis). Healthiest foods also include vegetables – pick a cornucopia of colors.
Thanks again for joining us, Dr. Jenna Bell, and sharing so much great insight on how we can live a more healthy and happy life!