Eat right, eat lite

By Denebola
Published: November 2007
By Taryn Valley
Judith Sharlin is a professor at Simmons College in Nutrition. Sharlin
has a Ph.D. in nutritional sciences from Tufts University and is a
registered dietician. Her previous background was in comparative
literature, French, and Ancient Greek. She has written and illustrated
a cookbook that won a national book award. She owns a catering
business and is also a competitive swimmer.
TV: How did you get from swimming and languages to nutrition?
JS: Well, I got my first degree in comparative literature and
languages, and I thought I might end up translating and I wanted to do
something more practical. I went to UC Berkely, and I met a
nutritionist out there who really inspired me, and I thought it might
be a more practical degree to have. So I’ve actually ended up
combining both my fields, because I write about nutrition and food.
TV: What are some common teen nutrition problems?
JS: Well, with young women, they don’t get enough calcium. Usually
teens don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
Sometimes their diets are high in fat because a lot of teens eat meals
away from home. They also don’t eat breakfast, and if they do eat
breakfast it isn’t a nutritious breakfast. And studies have shown that
teens tend to have more nutritious meals if they eat with their
families, so family meals are very important, and a lot of teens make
the mistake of not eating enough meals at home.
TV: So what is an example of a good diet for a teen?
JS: Start out at breakfast. I’d recommend a whole grain cereal. A lot
of the cereals now are made of whole grains, like Cherrios. Or
oatmeal, if you don’t like cereal. And have that with non-fat milk,
and have a piece of fruit, like a banana or a glass of orange juice.
If you don’t like that, you can have a yogurt that isn’t full of sugar
with fruit, and maybe a piece of whole wheat toast.
Then for lunch’€I’m not really familiar with what’s available at the
cafeteria but I know there’s a salad bar. You could get a salad and a
little dressing. There’s nothing wrong with a vinaigrette, or oil and
vinegar. Or a sandwich with whole wheat bread. So if you want to have
some fast protein, like turkey or chicken or even some low-fat meat.
If you don’t eat meat, you can have beans or hummus or a veggie pocket
with lowfat cheese on it. For a snack, fruit is always good, or
granola bars if they’re not too high in fat. Even cookies, especially
if you’re very active. You want to have a snack in the
afternoon’€yogurt, fruit, a smoothie, even some whole grain crackers or
pretzels or trail mix. Nuts and dried fruits is a great snack at any
For dinner, it’d be good to have as many vegetables as possible,
whether they’re cooked or raw, all different kinds. Then a small
amount of protein, like fish or chicken or white meat, or even red
meat, a little bit of red meat once a week is fine. Or if you’re a
vegetarian, you can have some meat alternative, like tofu, beans, or
rice. If you have pasta, that’s fine, but just not every night.
TV: What are some common alternatives to fat-filled snacks, like chips?
JS: Now, actually, chips are being made baked. But if those are not
available, you want to stay away from the chips. A few is fine, but a
lot of people can’t just have a few. Vegetables, olives, nuts (even
though they’re high in fat, they’re really good for you), and
avocadoes [are all nutritious snacks]. You could have guacamole and
some baked chips.
TV: What is the most important thing that teens should know about nutrition?
JS: I would say eating more fruits and vegetables and having family
meals. And staying away from those sugar-filled drinks, anything made
with high fructose corn syrup, anything that’s not 100% juice. A lot
of people drink sports drinks. If you’re playing a sport those are
really good to dilute with water, but if not, there’s no real reason
to drink those.
TV: You say stay away from sugary sodas. Is diet soda a good alternative?
JS: That’s really interesting, because I’m actually writing a chapter
in a textbook about weight management and I just came across a recent
study about diet sodas. The big question is whether diet sodas make
you fat. Because there was a study that showed that diet sodas were no
better than regular soda in terms of gaining weight. But it’s whether
they substitute fatty foods for healthy foods because they feel like,
‘Oh, I’m drinking a diet soda, it has no calories, so I can eat
whatever I want,’ or whether the soda itself does something to you to
make you more at risk for some diseases. So that’s still up in the
There have also been studies to show that you can lose weight if you
drink a little bit of those, but teenagers really drink too much of
that stuff. There’s nothing good in those. And the sizes have gotten
really out of hand. So it’s too much.
TV: What would you say to teenagers who are unhappy with their weight?
JS: I would say that they should talk about it with a professional.
Because the media plays a very powerful role, especially to young
people, and it’s totally unrealistic. What you see on television, what
you see on the internet, what you see in magazines, what’s seen as an
ideal, it’s impossible to achieve. So if you’re really unhappy about
your weight, I’d say seek some professional advice before it gets out
of hand.
TV: Any parting comments?
JS: I would say, stay away from processed foods and really enjoy the
food you eat. Take time to enjoy it.

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