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Boeing Center for Children's Wellness (Lean Team)

Ask the Registered Dietitian

1.     What is the difference between a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Nutritionist?

The "RD" credential is a legally protected title that can only be used by practitioners who are authorized by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association.

Some states have licensure laws that define the range of practice for someone using the designation "nutritionist," but in other states, virtually anyone can call him- or herself a "nutritionist" regardless of education or training.

Individuals with the RD credential have fulfilled specific requirements, including having earned at least a bachelor's degree (about half of RDs hold advanced degrees), completed a supervised practice program and passed a registration examination — in addition to maintaining continuing education requirements for recertification.

2.     What is the difference between different types of vegetarian diets and a vegan diet?

Vegetarian is a blanket term used to describe a person who does not consume meat, poultry, fish, or seafood. This grouping includes vegans and the various sub-categories of vegetarian.

Ovo-lacto vegetarians are vegetarians who do not consume meat, poultry, fish, and seafood, but DO consume eggs and milk. This is the largest group of vegetarians.

Ovo-vegetarian is a term used to describe someone who would be a vegan if they did not consume eggs.

Lacto-vegetarian is a term used to describe someone who would be a vegan if they did not consume milk.

Vegan is the strictest sub-category of vegetarians. Vegans do not consume any animal products or by-products. Some go as far as not even consuming honey and yeast.

3.     Can I be a vegetarian or vegan and still get all the nutrients that I need?

The more restrictive a diet is, the more challenging it is to get all the nutrients you need. Therefore, you may need to make an extra effort to ensure that your vegetarian diet includes sufficient quantities of the following nutrients:

Calcium helps build and maintain strong teeth and bones. Milk and low-fat dairy foods are highest in calcium. Dark green vegetables, such as turnip and collard greens, kale and broccoli, are good plant sources when eaten in sufficient quantities. Calcium-enriched and fortified products, including juices, cereals, soy milk, soy yogurt and tofu, are other options.

Iron is a crucial component of red blood cells. Dried beans and peas, lentils, enriched cereals, whole-grain products, dark leafy green vegetables and dried fruit are good sources of iron. Because iron isn't as easily absorbed from plant sources, the recommended intake of iron for vegetarians is almost double that recommended for nonvegetarians. To help your body absorb iron, eat foods rich in vitamin C, such as strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, cabbage and broccoli, at the same time as you're eating iron-containing foods.

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for cardiovascular health as well as eye and brain development. Vegetarian diets that do not include fish and eggs are generally low in active forms of omega-3 fats. Because conversion of the plant-based omega-3 to the types used by humans is inefficient, you may want to consider fortified products or supplements or both.

Protein helps maintain healthy skin, bones, muscles and organs. Eggs and dairy products are good sources, and you don't need to eat large amounts to meet your protein needs. Plant sources include soy products and meat substitutes, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

Vitamin B-12 is necessary to produce red blood cells and prevent anemia. This vitamin is found almost exclusively in animal products, so it can be difficult to get enough B-12 on a vegan diet. For this reason, it's important for vegans to consider vitamin supplements, vitamin-enriched cereals and fortified soy products.

Vitamin D plays an important role in bone health. Vitamin D is added to cow's milk, some brands of soy and rice milk (be sure to check the label), and some cereals and margarines. However, if you don't eat enough fortified foods and have limited sun exposure, you may need supplementation with vitamin D-2 (derived from plants).

Zinc is an essential component of many enzymes and plays a role in cell division and in formation of proteins. Like iron, zinc is not as easily absorbed from plant sources as it is from animal products. Cheese is a good option if you eat dairy products. Plant sources of zinc include whole grains, soy products, legumes, nuts and wheat germ.

4.     What are some good healthy recipes for a vegetarian?

The following link provides vegetarian recipes in a range of categories as well as their nutrition information:



5.     What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye, malts and triticale.  It is used as a food additive in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing or thickening agent, often as "dextrin".

6.     What foods should I avoid on a gluten free diet?


Barley, Bulgur, Durham, Farina, Graham flour, Kamut, Matzo meal, Rye, Semolina, Spelt (a form of wheat), Triticale, Wheat

Beers, Breads, Candies, Cakes and pies, Cereals, Cookies, Crackers, Croutons, Gravies, Oats, Pastas, Processed luncheon meats, Salad dressings, Sauces (including soy sauce), Self-basting, poultry, Soups

Products that may have gluten in it:
Food additives, such as malt flavoring, modified food starch and others
Lipstick and lip balms
Medications and vitamins that use gluten as a binding agent
Play dough

7.     What foods can I eat on a gluten free diet?

Grains and starches allowed in a gluten-free diet include:
Amaranth, Arrowroot, Buckwheat, Corn, Cornmeal, Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean), Hominy grits, Polenta, Pure corn tortillas, Quinoa, Rice, Tapioca

 Other gluten-free foods include:

Fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated)
Most dairy products
Wine and distilled liquors, ciders and spirits

8.     Are there any nutritional risks for being on a gluten free diet?

People who follow a gluten-free diet may have low levels of certain vitamins and nutrients in their diets. Many grains are enriched with vitamins. Avoiding grains with a gluten-free diet may mean eating fewer of these enriched products.  Nutrients that may be lacking in a gluten free diet are: Iron, Calcium, Fiber, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate

9.     What is the best “diet” to help me lose weight?

There are no foods or pills that magically burn fat. No super foods will alter your genetic code. No products will miraculously melt fat while you watch TV or sleep.  Some ingredients in supplements and herbal products can be dangerous and even deadly for some people.

Slow, steady weight loss is more likely to last than dramatic weight changes. Healthy plans aim for a loss of no more than ½ pound to 1 pound per week.  If you lose weight quickly, you’ll lose muscle, bone and water. You also will be more likely to regain the pounds quickly afterwards.

If you want to maintain a healthy weight, build muscle and lose fat, the best path is a lifelong combination of eating smarter and moving more.  For a personalized plan, tailored to your lifestyle and food preferences, consult a registered dietitian.

10.  So what is the best way to lose weight?

The biggest nutrition problem for most Americans is posed by high-fat, high-sugar foods and drinks, such as snack foods, candies and soft drinks.  The key is to moderate. Watching portion sizes is an easy way to cut back without cutting out. It is also important to incorporate plenty of nutrient dense smart choices into your diet to replace the high fat sugary foods.

Where can you find these smart choices? When you go shopping, look to the four corners of your supermarket:

·       Fruits and vegetables from the produce aisles

·       Whole grains from the bakery

·       Low-fat milk products from the dairy case

·       Lean proteins from the meat/fish/poultry department.

What you eat is just one part of the energy balance equation. The other is your physical activity. Most of us take in more calories than we spend on our daily activities.

The minimum for good health is 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day. To reach a healthy weight, you may need to be physically active longer (60 minutes a day) or participate in more intense activities. How much activity do you usually get now? If it's only 15 minutes, try adding a 15- or 20-minute walk during your lunch break.


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