The Top Five Questions Dieticians are Asked

The Top Five Questions Dieticians are Asked

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Sponsored by Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center

At the start of every new year, one of the most common habits among Americans looking to improve their health is to set New Year’s Resolutions about dieting. Another common habit for Americans is to break those resolutions early in the year and feel guilty.

As well intended as resolutions might be, they are often unrealistic, making success unlikely — particularly where diets are concerned.

Registered dieticians at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center have found that it can be most helpful for people to understand some basics about food and healthy eating. To help people avoid the guilt that comes from broken resolutions, they share the top five questions they are most frequently asked by the clients they serve.

“What is the best diet?”

This is perhaps the number one question asked, and the answer is, there is no one diet that is best for everyone. The key is finding what works for you. You want to find a plan that is realistic, sustainable, and can fit into your lifestyle. Restrictive diets that eliminate whole food groups may be effective in the short term but are not sustainable or beneficial for long-term health. A healthy diet incorporates a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins.

“Are carbs bad for me?”

Carbohydrates are present in a wide range of foods, some healthy and others not so healthy. Carbs include grains like bread, pasta and rice, starchy vegetables like potatoes, peas and corn, fruits, dairy, and beans. Our bodies prefer to use carbs as fuel, so it is recommended that you consume carbohydrates, but the source of carbohydrates can make a difference.

Processed or simple carbs are foods where all of the good nutrition has been removed and you are just left with the sugar. These are things like white bread, sweets, cereals, and sugar sweetened beverages. Good or complex carb choices are those in which the natural fiber, vitamins and minerals are left in the food. These include things like fruits, whole grains, beans, and dairy. When incorporating carbohydrates into your diet, choose complex carbohydrates the majority of the time.

“Should I take a daily vitamin?”

It is best to get all the vitamins and minerals you need from food. You can do this by eating a varied diet including lots of fruits and vegetables. Each color of fruit and vegetable contains different nutrients, so it’s important to eat a rainbow. If you are not able to eat a varied diet, then it may be good to take a daily
multi-vitamin. Vitamin D is often supplemented because it is best obtained from sun exposure, and many of us are not able to get the amount of sunlight needed for adequate levels. Ask your doctor to test your vitamin D level so you know if you should start a supplement.

“Which foods raise my cholesterol?”

There are different types of cholesterol. There is your total cholesterol, LDL, or bad cholesterol, and HDL, or good cholesterol. The goal is to raise your HDL and lower your LDL. Foods that raise your bad cholesterol are those with saturated fat. These foods include butter, high fat meats like steak, and full fat dairy products. Foods that raise your good cholesterol are healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, and nuts. Foods packed with fiber, like beans and whole grains, also help lower your bad cholesterol. Contrary to popular belief, foods that contain cholesterol like eggs and shrimp don’t actually raise your cholesterol.

“How many calories should I eat to lose weight?”

This will vary from person to person. Calories are calculated based on our height, weight, age, and activity level. To lose one pound per week, you want to burn 500 more calories than you eat per day. That means you either want to consume 500 calories less than your body needs, burn 500 extra calories through exercise, or a combination of the two. It’s important to remember that not all calories are created equally. You should focus more on the quality of your diet and make sure you’re eating from a variety of food groups and minimizing processed foods.

If you would like to focus on a healthier you in 2024, you can meet with a registered dietician at Sentara for guidance. A referral is required from your health care provider, and most insurance companies cover the appointment. To schedule an appointment, contact Sentara Diabetes and Nutrition program at 703-523-0590 or visit to learn more.