Dietitians Dish: Nutrition myths - understanding the truth behind foods

By Elizabeth Sommerfeld
Aug. 14, 2012 at 3:14 a.m.

Elizabeth Sommerfeld

Elizabeth Sommerfeld

So, why can't I eat white foods any more?

The reason people are told this is because most white foods are refined grains. White breads, white rice, instant potatoes, etc., have had the fiber and nutrients stripped from the grain and are processed to the point that there is little nutritional value to these foods. However, this should not be used as a blanket statement.

There are white foods that have nutritional benefits, such as apples, bananas, garlic, onions, etc. It is also beneficial for some people who have diseases, such as kidney disease (especially those on dialysis), and those who need a low-fiber diet for other medical reasons.

But I can't eat carbs, aren't they bad for you?

Carbohydrates encompass a large amount of items. Not all of these are bad. Starches, fruits, vegetables and milk products are all part of the carbohydrate group. Fruits, non-starchy vegetables and milk products all are important parts of the diet. But I'm going to focus mainly on starchy foods, such as grains, for this answer.

Whole-grain foods fall in the carbohydrate group, but they provide a significant amount of fiber, vitamins and minerals. According to the Whole Grain Council, studies have shown eating anywhere from 1 to 3 servings per day can reduce stroke risk by 30-36 percent, type 2 diabetes risk by 21-30 percent, heart disease risk by 25-28 percent, and helps with weight maintenance.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, defines a serving of whole grain as any of the following:

•  1/2 cup cooked brown rice or other cooked grain

•  1/2 cup cooked 100 percent whole-grain pasta

•  1/2 cup cooked hot cereal, such as oatmeal

•  1 ounce uncooked whole grain pasta, brown rice or other grain

•  1 slice 100 percent whole grain bread

•  1 very small (1 ounce) 100 percent whole grain muffin

•  1 cup 100 percent whole grain ready-to-eat cereal

Other items that may not be on this list can contribute to your whole-grain intake. The Whole Grain Council states you can count a serving of whole grains as 16 grams of whole grain ingredients.

Try to get in three servings of foods with the whole-grain stamp on the package to meet the recommended amount of whole grains per day. For more information check out the Whole Grains Council website at

So, I can't have bananas or watermelon any more?

A fruit serving is a fruit serving. Granted some fruits may be more concentrated in calories or natural sugars, therefore a portion of one fruit may be smaller than a portion of another fruit.

For example, an extra small banana (4 oz.) has the same calories and carbohydrates as 1 1/4cup of strawberries or 1 1/4cup cubed watermelon. So, bananas may not be your best choice if you are watching calories or carbohydrates, but that doesn't mean they are bad. In the diabetic diet, a serving of fruit is considered to contain about 60 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrate. Generally, a fruit choice consists of:

•  1/2 cup of canned or fresh fruit or unsweetened fruit juice

•  1 small fresh fruit (4 ounces) - about the size of a tennis ball

•  2 Tablespoons of dried fruit

Ideally, you want to choose fresh fruits over canned or dried fruits because a portion is typically larger and more satisfying. Also, if you eat canned fruits, make sure to choose those that are canned in their own juice or extra light syrup, stay away from the heavy syrup options. That just means there are added sugars and the calories and carbohydrate content has increased. Check out websites like or for more information or recipes.

Don't dietitian and nutritionist mean the same thing?

No, they are not the same thing. There is no licensure act in the state of Texas to restrict who can call themselves a nutritionist. Anyone who feels like they are knowledgeable about nutrition can call themselves a nutritionist.

A registered dietitian must have an undergraduate degree from an accredited university and complete a supervised internship before being able to sit for a credentialing exam.

Once the exam is passed, a dietitian must keep up with a minimum of 75 continuing education hours every five years. This means that dietitians are required to keep up on nutrition topics and enhance their knowledge year after year. Check out to find a dietitian in your area.

Elizabeth Sommerfeld is the Clinical Nutrition Manager/Bariatric Coordinator at DeTar Healthcare Systems. She is a registered and licensed dietitian and has a master of science degree. Send questions or comments to



Powered By AffectDigitalMedia