5 Burning Questions: Clinical/Tele-Health Dietician

  • Published
  • By Staff Report
  • Air Force District of Washington Public Affairs

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. – The second installment in the “5 Burning Questions” series covers nutrition with answers from the 11th Medical Group’s Clinical/Tele-Health Dietician, Ms. Ann M. Elkins, MS, RD, LD.

Elkins has been a practicing registered dietician since 2011. She entered into the profession after her own success losing 268 pounds, which sparked a desire to help others overcome the obstacles that keep them from reaching their weight-loss and healthy-eating goals.

Everyone is indoors and eating during this pandemic. We all like comfort food, but what are the risks?

Unfortunately, most comfort foods are made from white flour, white sugar, salt and fat, which give our bodies lots of calories, but very few nutrients.  Right now is when we need to be at our strongest to fight this COVID-19 infection.  We won’t make that happen by eating “junk,” especially if the junk edges out the healthier items.  It’s important during these times that we maintain our normal routine with set mealtimes.  This makes it easier to keep to a balanced diet, avoid mindless snacking and keep weight gain at bay.

So what can I do to make healthier food choices during this quarantine? 

In order to stay strong and fight COVID-19, we need to concentrate on protein (eggs, chicken, fish, turkey, pork, beef, lamb) and vegetables.  Protein builds antibodies in the blood, which fight infections and may help you avoid COVID-19.  Vegetables are full of antioxidants, which, if you do get sick, may help you reduce the severity of the infection. 

During this time, it’s important to think outside the box when it comes to your food.  Using frozen vegetables is a great and easy way to add more vegetables into anything.  I put salsa on my scrambled eggs, to add flavor and extra vegetables.  Garden-style spaghetti sauce is also a great source of vegetables.  Don’t limit yourself just because there is nothing left in the produce aisle. 

Extra-lean ground beef and lean ground turkey breast can be used in soups, spaghetti sauce or meatballs to meet protein requirements.  Eggs are a great protein source.  Low-fat cottage cheese is also an excellent protein source, with a half-cup having the protein equivalent of two eggs, or almost as much as half of a chicken breast. 

Just do the best you can.  We are all in this together!

What are the advantages of working with a tele-health dietician? 
Working with a dietitian, whether face-to-face or via tele-health, can benefit you in so many ways.  Most Registered Dietitians have a Master’s degree in nutrition and are licensed by the state, so you can be assured the information you are getting is evidenced-based and up-to-date. 

Working one-on-one with a dietitian also allows you to get customized advice for YOUR particular needs.  You are a very complex human being with multiple goals and needs and dietitians have been trained to help you reach YOUR goals within YOUR lifestyle.  You get real scientific information.

Why is nutrition just as, if not more, important than physical activity? 

Dietitians like to say, “Food is life.”  Without the proper nutrients all the exercise in the world is not going to help you stay healthy and fit.  Food provides the protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water that allow your body to function in a healthy way.  If you don’t put those nutrients in your body will not operate correctly and over time you will be left to deal with things like osteoporosis (lack of vitamin D/calcium),  leg cramps (lack of potassium/dehydration),  high blood pressure (can come from high salt intake), just to name a few.

Another favorite dietitian saying is, “You can’t outrun your fork.”  For most people, 30 minutes of moderate exercise, running, etc. burns approximately 350 calories.  Adding half an avocado to your sandwich or drinking a sugary latte or eating a palm-full of mixed nuts can erase those calories.  Research shows that most people overestimate how much they exercise by 40% and underestimate how much they eat by 50%.  This can lead to weight gain.  While routine exercise is vital for general fitness, 85% of weight loss is what you put in your mouth, not how much you exercise.  If you don’t control your intake, especially your starches (bread, rice, noodles, potatoes, cereal), no amount of exercise will help you meet your goal.

What are some great ways to make my kids love nutrition and sneak in those healthy foods?? 

Kids are not wired to like vegetables.  Research shows that most kids need to see vegetables 10 – 20 times before they will even try them.  Don’t give up.  Also, all people have different tastes, so try serving vegetables in different ways.  For example, I don’t like cooked zucchini but I love it sliced raw or in zucchini bread.  Try vegetables cooked and raw when introducing them to your kids.  Perhaps some melted cheese or butter may increase their intake.  Try mixing low-fat cottage cheese, or plain Greek yogurt with a sprinkle of Dry Ranch dressing mix and serve it as a dip with raw vegetables.  The dip is high in protein and low in fat. 

Kids love to have ownership over their food.  Try taking them to the store and finding new fruits or vegetables they’ve never tried.  My grandkids and I do this. We then find out how to prepare it on YouTube.  We then taste-test the foods and decide if we like them.  By getting kids involved in the selection and preparation of food, they’re more likely to be open to trying something new.