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Review: Nutrition Diva's Secrets for a Healthy Diet by Monica Reinagel

Nutrition Diva's Secrets for a Healthy Diet: What to Eat, What to Avoid, and What to Stop Worrying AboutNutrition Diva's Secrets for a Healthy Diet: What to Eat, What to Avoid, and What to Stop Worrying About by Monica Reinagel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my kind of nutrition book! It provides just enough data to help you make informed decisions, and avoids being a boring nutritionist’s textbook. Reinagel tells you what to choose and what to avoid when shopping or dining out. She also busts many persistent nutrition myths. I agree with her advice, which is to choose fresh, whole foods over processed, packaged, and prepared foods. She advocates preparing meals at home, but if choosing packaged foods, to choose those with simple, recognizable ingredients.

Reinagel says to build a diet around protein and vegetables, and says that grains and dairy aren’t essential to a healthy diet (although they can have a place). She addresses concerns about pesticides, antibiotics, genetically modified foods, and industrial foods, but isn’t preachy.

I’ve been a fan of Reinagel’s Nutrition Diva podcast for years. This book is basically a collection of the information and advice from the podcast, organized into chapters.

Grocery shopping

You can download Nutrition Diva’s Shopping Guide.

Produce
  • Vegetables should make up ⅓ - ½ of your diet and grocery bill.
  • Buy eat least one from each of these groups:
    • green (lettuce, spinach, etc.)
    • red/orange (tomatoes, carrots, etc.)
    • cruciferous (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.)
    • pods (peas, green beans, etc.)
    • stinkers (onions, garlic, etc.)
  • The benefits of fruits and vegetables far outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. 50% of exposure to pesticides happens before age 5, so young kids should reduce exposure. Reduce pesticide exposure by 90% by buying organic forms of the Dirty Dozen: peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes (imported), spinach, lettuce, potatoes.
  • The freshness of produce has more impact on nutrition than whether it’s organic.
  • Frozen produce can be more nutritious than fresh.
  • Frozen vegetables are usually more nutritious than canned, and contain no added salt. The texture and flavor are usually better too. Cans contain BPA, which may be a health concern.
Dairy
  • Dairy isn’t necessary, but can be a good source of protein, calcium, and Vitamin D.
  • Low- or non-fat Greek yogurt is higher in protein but lower in calcium than regular yogurt.
  • Cheeses that are lower in fat and calories: part-skim ricotta, mozzarella, feta, goat, cottage.
  • About 2 eggs/day won’t increase cholesterol or risk of disease.
Meat
  • Red and white meat can both be healthy. Look for well-trimmed cuts.
  • Avoid cured meats with nitrites.
  • Deli turkey, chicken, and roast beef are generally nitrite-free, but look for low-sodium versions.
Grains
  • Grains aren’t essential.
  • Intact grains are even better than foods made with whole grain flour.
  • Whole grain breads, tortillas, etc. should have at least 3 g of fiber per serving.
Sweeteners
  • Artificial sweeteners aren't dangerous.
  • All sweet-tasting foods should be consumed in moderation, whether naturally or artificially sweet.
Oils
  • Use extra-virgin olive oil as your primary oil. Canola can be substituted, but it lacks olive polyphenols.
Nuts and seeds
  • Raw, unsalted nuts and seeds are best. Next best is dry-roasted and lightly salted. Worst is honey-roasted.
  • Nut and seed butters should contain only the nut or seed and maybe some salt. Avoid sugar, hydrogenated oils, and other additives.
Packaged and prepared foods
  • Avoid partially hydrogenated oils.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup isn’t worse than other sugars; it’s the quantity in which it’s consumed that’s the problem.
  • Protein % DV >= carbohydrate % DV (protein % DV = 2x protein g).
  • Fiber % DV >= carbohydrate % DV.
  • Sugar g < fiber g
Caffeine
  • Caffeine negatively affects the development of babies, so pregnant women should limit their intake.
  • For everyone else, a moderate amount of caffeine has some benefits and limited disadvantages. Limit to 3-4 cups of regular coffee or equivalent.
Additional grocery notes
  • Cold cuts, bacon, sausage, etc. made from turkey or chicken are often as unhealthy as traditional (fat, sodium, nitrites). Low-fat versions are usually higher in sodium.
  • Dried beans are better than canned: lower in sodium, better flavor and texture, and cheaper. Cook and freeze to save prep time.

Diet

  • “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and supper like a pauper.”
  • Eat 4-6 servings of grains per day.
  • Maximum amount of protein to eat each day = 1 g for each pound you weigh. Minimum amount of protein = max/3.
  • Going 3+ hours between meals can have beneficial effects, and doesn’t negatively affect blood sugar or metabolism. It takes about 3 days of fasting before the body lowers metabolism.
  • Eat veggies with healthy fats because the vitamins in veggies are fat-soluble.
  • Eat as many raw veggies as you want, but limit fruit to 2 cups/day due to sugar content.
Breakfast
  • Eat 25-30% of daily calories before lunch (400-700 calories).
  • Have at least 15 g of protein at breakfast to keep hunger at bay.
Lunch
  • ⅓ of calories (500-800).
  • At least 1 serving of protein.
  • 1-2 servings of vegetables.
  • Bread/grains are optional; protein and vegetables are better.
Dinner
  • ⅓ of calories (500-800).
  • At least 1 serving of protein.
  • 1-2 servings of veggies.
  • Maybe a grain or starch.
Chinese
  • eat: wonton or hot-and-sour soup, spring roll, steamed dish with light sauce, plain or brown rice
  • avoid: fried rice, egg rolls, crispy noodles, battered and deep-fried items, sweet-and-sour dishes
Mexican
  • eat: grilled chicken or vegetable fajitas, fish tacos, soft tacos, black beans, tamales
  • avoid: chips, burritos, quesadillas, taco salad, chimichangas, hard-shell tacos, refried beans
Cooking vegetables
  • Minimize vegetable cooking time and contact with water. Microwaving preserves more nutrients than other methods.
  • Add fast-cooking veggies to soups just prior to serving.
Supplements
  • A basic daily multivitamin can fill in the gaps, but get as much as you can from a healthy diet.
  • Take a calcium supplement only to cover any gap between dietary intake and recommended amount.
  • Get 400 IU of Vitamin D daily from food and/or supplements.
  • A fish oil supplement is fine, but you’ll need less Omega-3 if you reduce your Omega-6 intake. Use and eat products containing olive or canola oil instead of vegetable oils (corn, soybean, peanut, sunflower, safflower).
Diets
  • The most useful form of low-carb diet is to simply limit foods containing refined flour and sugar.
  • The Mediterranean Diet is very good.
Exercise: There’s no best time of day to exercise. All that matters is calories consumed and burned over the long term.

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