Dr. Lisa Young is a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) in private practice and has been counseling adults and children for 3 decades. Dr. Young offers individual counseling as well as group programs on a wide variety of nutrition-related issues including obesity and weight control, disease prevention, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, pregnancy, lactation, and gastrointestinal disorders. Young has been involved in clinical obesity research studies at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and at St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital Center; and has consulted for various weight management programs in New York City. She is a contributor to US News and World Report, NBCnews.com and TODAY.com on current issues related to portion control, nutrition, and health and serves on the medical advisory board for Eat This, Not That! Dr. Young serves on the expert advisory for US News and World Reports “Best Diets.” She was a regular contributor for Huffington Post and an advisory board member for Fitness magazine and Bottom Line Women’s Health.
In this episode, we break down what a healthy diet looks like and how not all sugars and carbs are bad and off-limits!
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Welcome to the Sugar Solved podcast where we're demystifying health one gram of sugar at a time. From eliminating excess sugar to cutting back on carbs, diving into keto, or becoming a devout vegan, today's diet landscape can give you a sugar crash just thinking about it. Sugar Solve is here to demystify all the nutrition and health trends you're bombarded with on a daily basis, bringing you unbiased insight, research and real world experiences from experts in the field of medicine, nutrition, health and wellness. You'll gain knowledge and clarity around the base trends in health and nutrition and leave each week feeling empowered to make informed decisions in your own life to optimize your diet and personal wellness for longevity, long lasting energy immunity, improve focus and performance that will leave you feeling better day in and day out. The truth won't be sugar coated here. Welcome back to the Sugar Salt podcast. Today we'll be speaking with Dr. Lisa Young, who is a registered dietitian nutritionist. She's an author, an international lecturer, media consultant and private practice nutritionist, as well as an adjunct professor of nutrition at NYU. Hi. Dr. Lisa Young, welcome to Sugar Solved. Thank you for coming on.
Oh, it's wonderful to be here. Thanks for having me.
So I'd love for you to give our listeners just a bit about your background and yourself.
Sure. So I'm Lisa Young, and I have a private practice in New York, and I am a registered dietitian nutritionist. And I also have a Ph.D. in nutrition. And I actually got interested in nutrition because I had an overweight grandmother who was always struggling with overeating, with health issues. And that was my really my first impetus and the way I got interested in portion sizes because I wrote several books, I wrote the portion teller and finally full, finally slim. And these are user friendly books really on healthy eating with a focus on lifestyle, nutrition, portion control, all foods fit. You don't need rigid restrictive diets. And what I did was I tracked the history of portion sizes getting big, and they correlated perfectly with increasing rates of the prevalence of obesity. Like, for example, sodas started getting big, hamburgers started getting big as people started gaining weight. And that was actually started at my PhD work. And I also am an adjunct professor of nutrition at NYU.
Right. So what's something that people always get wrong about sugar and nutrition when it comes to sugar and thinking that that is the evil number one enemy in their diet?
I think that what people get wrong is that they lump all sugars and all carbs in the same category and they'll say sugar is bad, carbs are bad. So let's break it down, first of all. And just like there's healthy fat and unhealthy fat, there's healthy carbs and unhealthy carbs, healthy sugars and unhealthy sugar. So carbs are not the enemy. The problem is our portions are way too big, but we want to distinguish with sugar between naturally occurring sugar like fruit, low fat dairy that's healthy. So having blueberries, having an apple, having a pear, having watermelon when it's in season, these are sugars, but these are naturally occurring sugars and they are not the same and do not need to be limited like added sugar that we're getting from soda, candy and cookies.
So when we have these natural sugars, we can have them when we have them in the correct portion. That's what you're saying then?
Exactly. I mean, no one's going to get fat from eating too many blueberries because the fiber what's happening is when you eat sugar from fruit, you're also getting fiber unless you have the juice. And I wouldn't guzzle down pints of juice because that is problematic and that's too much sugar, even though it's natural. But when you actually chew and eat the fruit, the berries, the orange, the kiwis, whatever it is, even the carrots, the vegetables you're going to get fiber. Fiber is a signal like it's saying to you, Hey, I'm full, I could stop. So it's very unlikely that you're going to eat too much because the fiber will help you feel full.
So give us a breakdown on portions and what are healthy portions? Do you have to be there, sitting there with your measuring cups when you go out to a restaurant and start meticulously weighing things out, how do you start to learn what healthy portions are and how can you start to teach yourself how to visualize that so you don't have to take these drastic measures?
That's a great question, and I don't think that eating should be punitive and restrictive and have any self punishment. So you do not have to sit and measure and weigh everything when you're cooking. You can measure and weigh something here and there. But I like to look at it. There's a couple of things. One is like visual wisdom and I say like, look at creating a healthy plate. Half that plate should be fruits and or vegetables, one quarter healthy starch. And that's also carbs, but it's healthy carbs, whether it's sweet potato or quinoa or something. And the other quarter should be healthy protein like fish, chicken, beans, tofu. And when you look at a plate that way, you don't have to sit and measure and weigh everything out. And when it comes to fruits and vegetables and these are carbs and naturally occurring sugar, I'm not worried about people eating too much. So I don't think you need to really put a lid on the portions because it does contain the fiber. But what's going to help you to feel full is protein, healthy, fat and fiber, these three nutrients. So if you have fruit and you have it with, let's say, yogurt or a little cottage cheese or an apple with peanut butter, a little bit of nuts that has some fat that helps to keep your blood sugar steady when you combine different food groups.
Yeah. So let's say we have something that is low fiber. It's a little higher. And Sugar, what are the best ways to put that? So, yes, in Apple, maybe with peanut butter, what are some good food pairings that people maybe should consider if they tend to like higher carb foods or higher sugar foods? What's the best way to go about enjoying those but mitigating any big glucose spikes?
I write it in my book. Finally full, finally slim. Create the perfect pair for a snack like two is better than one. So instead of carrots that people worry, oh no, it's sugar which is healthy sugar. Have that with some hummus, for example, have an apple with peanut butter, make a smoothie and don't just have like berries. But if you go and add a little bit of milk or yogurt now, you can use plant based milk, but that doesn't give you any protein. So if you're going to use a plant based milk like an almond milk or something, then I would say add some nuts or nut butter to that smoothie. So have either a berry smoothie with, let's say, berries, banana and Greek yogurt, or if you want to use berries, banana and almond milk, add a little bit of peanut butter or nuts, avocado and toast or avocado and whole grain crackers have an egg with some veggies and you get the veggies with the egg and then maybe a piece of whole grain toast. So you're getting either protein or fat with the carbs, and that's going to be very helpful to keep your blood sugar steady. And what's so important about that is it prevents you from overeating and it really prevents you from being hungry. A half an hour later.
How do you feel about people assuming that taking, let's say, like a shot of apple cider vinegar and it helps reduce that glucose spike? We've seen it in some studies. When you wear a continuous glucose monitor, taking that shot of apple cider vinegar before you eat a bowl of pasta. And it kind of dampens the effect of glucose spike. Is that true or is that really just dependent on the person and everything else they may have eaten beforehand?
I think it's the latter. And if somebody wants to try it once in a while, that's fine. But there's no research really that proves this. And a problem with something is it could have a positive effect in one area, but a negative in another. So a shot of apple cider vinegar, it's very, very acidic. It's very bad for the teeth. It could exacerbate a lot of other people who have swallowing issues. So I'd rather somebody make a salad dressing with apple cider vinegar and add apple cider vinegar with olive oil and spices and use that as a salad dressing. Then just guzzle down an entire shot of apple cider vinegar thinking it's going to lower their blood sugar.
On that topic of kind of liquids now, liquid calories and liquid sugar, that's where people get really tripped up, obviously, from the sodas, from their coffee. They don't realize that, oh, they just put in like three teaspoons of sugar. So what are the best ways to kind of learn the best type of portion control and awareness around the liquid calories and sugar that they're taking in?
Yeah, that's a great question. And liquid calories don't count in people's minds because it's just a liquid, you just drinking it. But the problem is it really causes that blood sugar to rise even faster. So rather than make you worry about weighing, measuring and a lot of people guzzle these liquid calories when they're out of the home, always order the small and portions are huge. And that's a downside. But whether it's a soda, a smoothie, an orange juice, an apple juice or whatever, when you're out and there's a choice of sizes, which there often are even like in a fast food place, I always say, what is better than soda? But if one is going to have something that has sugar, always get the smallest size possible because you're not going to get a big size and throw it out and you're not going to get a big size and share it. So to be real, get the smallest size possible, even if it costs more an ounce. Because what happens is the bigger the size, the cheaper it is relative. So people end up thinking they're getting that bargain.
How about with unsweetened beverages and now using, let's say, a sugar free sweetener? So Stevia Erythritol one of those. What are your thoughts on those and how do those types of sugar free natural sweeteners really affect someone's body?
I'm not a fan of artificial sweeteners or these natural even these sugar alcohols like the erythritol, they can cause a lot of stomach aches for someone who has diabetes and can't have sugar. That's fine, but I'm not a fan of them. That could cause stomach discomfort in a lot of people and I would really rather and people they also have a health halo surrounding them. So if something says all natural or no sugar beverage or sugar free, a health halo means that it seems help. The product seems healthier than it is and you end up eating more of that product or drinking more. And then you end up having it with potato chips and junk food anyway. You know, like I'll have a Diet Coke with French fries. People will say, you know, so you have to be very careful about those. I really would rather people eat the real thing and have less, unless of course they are diabetic and they cannot have any sugar. Then I would say that it's a once in a while treat, but not something that should be in all of their baked goods and in every single thing that they eat.
I mean, going back to carbohydrates. Can you give us a breakdown on what the simple carbohydrates are versus complex and kind of define those terms for people and give examples of those types of foods?
Well, simple and complex, we can distinguish, but there's there's healthy, simple, and there's also a healthy complex. So, you know, people get confused where they think simple as unhealthy and complex is healthy, and that's not necessarily the case. So when it comes to the simple sugars, simple carbs, we're talking about fruits coming from fructose, dairy coming from lactose. So these are the naturally occurring healthy sugar. And these to be compared with table sugar like sucrose or the sugar that we think of in soda and cookies and cakes in ice cream. So these are all simple sugars and the healthy ones are going to be the fruit and the dairy. And when we have complex carbs and some vegetables also like carrots, for example, when we think about complex carbs, there's bagels, which is white bread and starch, but we want to have healthy starch. An example of healthy, complex carbohydrates would be baked potatoes, sweet potato, quinoa, corn. And these are starches, but they are healthy. But often we eat too much. You know, white pasta is a complex car, but not a healthy, complex carb. If you have a whole grain pasta or soba noodles or maybe a red lentil pasta, that is going to be healthier. But when you go to a restaurant and they give you a bowl of pasta, which is three cups, and you probably should have no more than a cup, a cup and a half, you're getting a portion that's too big and that's what's making carbs unhealthy, really the quantity issue that we're having.
So can you walk us through a day of an example? Just say someone in their thirties to forties are like a healthy kind of meal plan, like an example day of a healthy a good breakfast lunch dinner that's balanced and that has portions and everything's paired properly.
So I think there's no one size fits all. But just to give a couple of general examples and then people can extrapolate from there is, let's say for breakfast, one option might be a bowl of oats. So you do whole grain rolled oats about a cup cooked and to give it more volume, you can add berries, apple. You might want to make that with low fat milk or plant based milk or water. Top it, let's say with know. Couple of tablespoons of chia seeds or walnuts. And in that breakfast, you're going to be getting healthy carbs, healthy fat and a little bit of protein. So that would be one healthy breakfast. A healthy lunch option might be let's say you want to do a salad with. Grilled chicken or grilled salmon topped with an olive oil based dressing. Does it have to be a fat free dressing to have some fat or add a little bit of avocado greens, different colored vegetables? And if you want it, even a little bit of starch, it's okay to have a little bit of quinoa in that salad if you want it. If you felt like you would rather have a sandwich, whether it's grilled salmon on a sandwich, on a bun or something, make it whole grain bread and then don't have something like quinoa or starch. And what I like to think of a healthy dinner, that's the balance. The plate where you want to do half the plate veggies, all veggies like the non-starchy, vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, and then one quarter healthy starch. So maybe sweet potato or brown rice. And then the other quarter, healthy protein, chicken fish, tofu beans. And that would be an example of a healthy dinner and a healthy snack might be, let's say, an apple and peanut butter or hummus and veggies. That's like making the perfect pair. Where you're having two is better than one.
So if there's one final tip or actionable item that you can give our listeners that they can take away, they can either try it on their own or they can just implement long term into their lives. What would that be?
I think that tip would be eat more unprocessed Whole Foods. So focus on having more fruits, more vegetables, more beans, more fish, more nuts. They're unprocessed and they're not going to have the added sugar. And so you want to pay attention to your internal hunger and how much you're eating, but you also want to try to get rid of the ultra processed foods, if you can.
Thank you so much, Dr. Young. You have been a wealth of knowledge, so if you can just leave our listeners with how they can contact you if they want to work with you or any other links, we'll have that all in the show notes.
Wonderful. So my website is Dr. Lisa Young. Ah, Lisa Y you and G and you can reach me at Lisa at Dr. Lisa Young. I'm the author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and the Portion Teller. I do virtual private counseling. And so I'm available all over the country, all over the world, and happy to answer any questions and work with anyone that's interested.
Thank you so much.
Thank you for tuning in to another episode of the Sugar Salt podcast. As always, if you like what you hear. Share it with a friend. Leave a rating and review on your favorite podcast player and tune in next week for another episode of the Sugar Salt podcast, where we demystify health and nutrition. One gram of sugar at a time.