Different diets suit different needs


Are athletes really what they eat? Photo by Aniqa Rahman

Grace Dorsey

The grocery store facilitates hundreds of choices for customers. Different options, whether brand-wise or flavor-wise, represent different degrees of healthiness. With so many labels like fat-free or sugar-free, it can be hard to decipher what to pick.
That’s where Hy-Vee dietitian Megan Kemp comes in.
“Every day as a retail dietitian is different, which I love. Since it is January, I spend most of my day in weight loss consults. I will have three to four hour consults per day,” Kemp said. “The rest of my time is spent helping organize and plan our freezer meal cooking classes, teaching kids’ classes about nutrition, support groups for specific health conditions (esp. diabetes, celiacs) [and] working with [the] kitchen to develop healthier ready to-go meals for our customers.”
For junior Lauren Hoffman, the classic picture of a plate divided into fruit, vegetables, protein, grain and dairy pops into mind when she thinks of good nutrition. This isn’t surprising, since the U.S government has pushed the image onto children for the past six years. Officials effectively replaced MyPlate’s predecessor, the food pyramid, in 2011 over fears that it was too confusing and didn’t clearly define good foods like whole grains from unhealthy foods like refined white flour.
“[My idea of healthy eating is] just having a really balanced diet, eating from all the food groups [and] not eating a lot of junk food. Part of [me having a healthy diet] is my mom will cook a lot, so usually we have balanced meals. We’ll have vegetables, fruit and protein, which is really nice,” Hoffman said. “I know that some people don’t have access to that which makes it hard to eat healthy because she cooks the meal every night, and it’s not like I’m heating up a frozen pizza all the time.”
Of course, diet isn’t “one size fits all.” While some may cut out gluten because of conditions like celiac disease, others may remove dairy because of an allergy. Freshman Jordan Kuhnert, for example, is one of the 7.3 million Americans who choose not to consume animal meat.
“[I went vegetarian] about three or four years ago. It was right when I started middle school, and I was just starting to be way more tired, and I got stomach aches a lot more,” Kuhnert said “I read something about how it could be how they process meat, so I just stopped cold turkey. I did [notice differences]. I stopped getting stomach aches, I was more active [and] I got tired less easily. I just felt a lot better.”
Though Kuhnert has found what works best for her, excessively restricting food in order to lose weight is something that Kemp warns against. Extreme diets often fail to take into account what is necessary for the body to survive, leading to physical and mental fatigue.
“Most of my clients have tried an array of diets to lose weight. Most are too restrictive in some way, cutting out entire food groups, macronutrients being left out (usually fat or carbs) or too low calories,” Kemp said. “People who are successful in losing weight are those who focus on portion control and being physically active.”
It isn’t just weight that nutrition influences, however; the side effects of unhealthy eating can range from weak bones to heart or kidney disease. Having a quality diet is especially important for teenagers because during this time period people make habits that could likely determine future behavior. Freshman Sarah Kuhlmann is no stranger to regulating food intake. As a type 1 diabetic, Kuhlmann lives her life being constantly aware of what she’s eating, which has given her a different experience than most of her peers.
“I have to be very conscious about how many carbs I intake and the insulin. I can’t eat an excessive amount of pure sugar because if I do so it’ll affect my blood sugar by raising it and then dropping it really low,” Kuhlmann said. “When I was on [the] 70/30 [diet] though, I had to take an exact amount of carbs for every meal and snacks at a special time. It was really strict, and I would have to eat a special amount of protein so it could last me throughout the day. Now I take a different insulin and I can eat whatever I want, I just have to be very wary about it.”
While Kuhlmann has dealt with her disorder all her life, the other kind of diabetes, type II, is on the rise. The condition’s rate has risen 21 percent from 2001 to 2009 for youth and only continues to increase. Researchers attribute the prevalence, in part, to unhealthy meal planning. With the availability and glorification of foods like pizza, hamburgers and doughnuts, it’s no wonder.
“I heard a McDonald’s commercial the other day, and it was ‘a dollar for any sized drink.’ A lot of it is quantity over quality,” Hoffman said. “I think the problem with how we view food is that if it’s expensive, we don’t think that it’s worth it. I totally understand that it’s hard sometimes to buy fresh food, but I feel like if we put a little more thought into portion control and buying better quality over quantity, then I think we would be healthier, which would be nice.”
For those wanting to break away from the cycle of choosing convenience over one’s well-being Kemp recommends making small and easy changes to start.
“Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive or daunting. Look at the foods you enjoy the most and try to put a healthy spin on them. Love pizza? Choose thin sliced, loaded with veggies,” Kemp said. “Choose 1-2 slices over more. Salads, fruits, yogurts are great options if you still feel hungry.”
What does your diet look like?