Santa is coming to town in TWO DAYS, so naturally I am in full holiday spirit mode. The house is decorated (my best work yet), the Christmas cards have been mailed, the gifts are (almost) all wrapped. And I needed to write one last Pocket RD post in time to put out the milk and cookies (although I don’t currently have any cookies made…so Santa may be getting black bean brownies this year…he’ll thank me later). I could write about avoiding holiday weight gain, or staving off those cravings to stuff your mouth with chocolate and call it a night. But that just didn’t seem appealing. So I did a nutrient analysis instead.
Ok, ok, before you fall immediately to sleep over this seemingly mind-numbing topic, let me explain. I’m taking advantage of the season to be JOLLY by dabbling with a little FOLLY. Toss out the idea right now that we’re doing a nutrient analysis of what I eat, or what you eat, or what your pregnant sister-in-law’s child eats. Today we’re delving into a nutrient analysis that is considered the ultimate challenge for a dietitian, the holy grail of macro- and micronutrient breakdown: what Buddy the Elf eats for breakfast.
Let’s start with Buddy’s original recipe for the ultimate sugar-fest of a breakfast. Frosted Flakes step aside.
- ½ pound spaghetti
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons sprinkles
- ½ cup mini-marshmallows
- 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
- ¼ cup M&Ms
- 2 Chocolate Fudge Pop-Tarts
*Portion sizes have been estimated based on YouTube videos.
Now that we have the recipe, it’s time to analyze. Performing nutrient analyses is a bread-and-butter task for a dietitian, and it used to be extremely tedious. Now with all the modern computer programs that exist to help us with this work, it is only moderately tedious. And we’re not the only ones who can do these analyses—you can too! Nutrient analyses are at your fingertips with websites like MyPlate. Using the MyPlate SuperTracker, you can create an account, track your daily food intake and exercise, and run reports to calculate how much of each nutrient you’re getting daily, weekly, monthly, etc. It’s actually pretty cool, despite the fact I just said it was moderately tedious. So let’s get to it!
After creating a profile for Buddy in my MyPlate account, logging his breakfast choices in the SuperTracker, and running a “Nutrients Report”, we reach the following conclusions about Buddy’s breakfast:
- 2,179 calories
- 45 grams protein
- 420 grams carbohydrate (77% of his daily calorie allowance)
- 165 grams sugar
- 135 grams added sugar
- 435 milligrams sodium
- 13 ½ ounces refined grains (goal for Buddy is less than 5 ounces)
- 15% of daily fat allowance
Now if Buddy were a real client of mine, let me give you a little insight into how this counseling session might go:
Me: So Buddy, now that we’ve taken a look at what you’re eating for breakfast, let’s figure out some ideas together on how we can balance your calories a little better and still make sure you’re getting your favorite foods. How does that sound?
Buddy: Sounds like someone needs a hug. But yes, let’s do that…maybe while singing.
Me: Well you’re starting the day with a big plate of spaghetti, which is a refined grain, meaning a lot of the good vitamins and fiber have been taken out during processing. What do you think about switching to whole wheat spaghetti?
Buddy: That might be yucky. But it might also be the World’s Best Spaghetti. I would like it then.
Me: Whole wheat spaghetti is the World’s Best! That sounds great, that’s a huge step for you. Now what about having a half plate of spaghetti instead of a whole plate? Is that something you could feel confident doing?
Buddy: Only if Papa Elf says it’s ok. If he says so, then yes. I’ll do anything for him.
Me: That sounds extremely generous Buddy, that’s great. Let’s look at your spaghetti toppings. You have a lot of added sugar here, but I understand you’re trying to get all the elf food groups [candy, candy canes, candy corn, syrup]. So what if we picked just one topping and cut it in half? Which one do you think you could eat 50% less of?
Buddy: The syrup is essential. The sprinkles are my favorite color. The marshmallows remind me of the North Pole. Maybe the Pop Tarts?
Me: That’s a great idea! So you think you could have one Pop Tart on your spaghetti instead of two?
Buddy: I do.
Me: Wonderful! So to recap, we’re going to work on three specific goals: eating whole wheat instead of regular spaghetti, having half a plate instead of a full plate of spaghetti, and eating one Pop Tart instead of two. Next time we come back we’ll see how you’re doing. How does that sound?
Buddy: Splendid! You’re my favorite.
Annnnnd scene. The whole point of that sensationalized and completely fictional counseling script is to show you that even when a client comes in eating a breakfast as outrageous as Buddy’s, we dietitians remain non-judgmental, positive, and help the client to figure out small strategies each time that actually work for his lifestyle. I wouldn’t completely change Buddy’s breakfast at the first session because that change wouldn’t last. It’s all about making small changes and continuing to follow up on progress. Lastly, contrary to popular belief, we will never TELL you what to eat. We will make suggestions and help you arrive at your own goals. It’s all part of this fancy technique called motivational interviewing. Having a master’s degree in nutrition pretty much means I’m very skilled at that…and that I’ve at least taken biochemistry.
So if your New Year’s resolutions include improving your diet, consider connecting with a dietitian for 1:1 guidance. New Year’s is basically our Sweeps Week. We make great Christmas or Hanukkah presents too (hint hint). So I’ll just watch my inbox for a note from you (email@example.com) and until then, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good (and healthy) night!