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Ask the Expert

News & Features | February 28, 2011

Ruth Tam

O: What’s your favorite nutrition tip?

K: [Get] sleep! Especially in your age range, there’s been a lot more data now that suggests people overeat when they don’t sleep. People don’t think sleep and nutrition go hand in hand, but they do. It’s completely overlooked as a health factor. We’ve all experienced that; we’re tired or we’re thirsty so we eat. Those urges trigger the same reactions. If you can take care of the sleep end, that will start to take care of the nutrition end too.

O: What is the nutrition rule people most often forget? Is there any aspect of the student or American diet that gets left out?

K: Modern diets tend to concentrate on carbohydrates, fat, and protein. We spend a lot of time trying to avoid fat or carbohydrates, so at a particular time you might be trying to watch your carbohydrates or fat intake, but you don’t look at protein.

So [watching protein intake] tends not to be in fad or in vogue, but it helps with getting your macronutrients. If you’re not getting enough protein–yogurt, beans, meat–you do tend to overeat carbohydrates and junk food.

O: You’ve mentioned problems with sleep and protein. Are there any other particularly unhealthy aspects of a student lifestyle?

K: Staying well hydrated is really important as well. When you’re tired or thirsty, you tend to want to eat, and a lot of us don’t recognize our thirst for what it is. Water is the ideal beverage for proper hydration. The 2010 [nutrition] guidelines …are recommending more fluid and water intake as opposed to sugar beverages, [which are a] huge source of calories.

O: Many students drink  a lot of coffee, does that help or harm hydration?

K: There’s a conception that you lose water when you have coffee because… caffeine dehydrates you, but that’s actually a myth. I’m not suggesting that you use caffeinated beverages as a main source of intake, but you don’t have to drink water to make up for caffeine.

O: What would you recommend students do to improve their nutritional intake?

K: There are a lot of clichés. There’s no magical, ‘Oh, I’ve never heard that piece of information before’ tip that will change your life. One rule to keep in mind is, the more colorful your plate is, the better you’re doing. I tend to think for [the college] population, you come to school and you know what you like or don’t like, but then [at collete] you get exposed to foods that you might not have opted to eat. So we should encourage [consuming] variety. Be brave and try some interesting foods.  Try something you’ve never seen or heard before, [you] may have [found] a new favorite.

O: Michelle Obama’s “Let’s move” campaign to reduce U.S. child obesity just celebrated it’s one year anniversary. What’s your opinion of the program so far?

K: It’s funny how controversial it’s become in this contentious political environment. I don’t understand how could it be met with any resistance; it’s such an admirable goal, and clearly will have benefits to [the] whole population. But i’s being attacked by people on the opposing side. It’s interesting to see how, when [Michelle Obama] recommends watching what foods are available in the cafeteria, people say, ‘I’m going to bring in cookies.’