Ask the Expert: Debunking nutrition myths with registered dietitian Toby Amidor

When it comes to following a healthy diet, there’s a lot of contradictory information out there. From caffeine to sugar to good fats and bad fats, it’s hard to know what we should be consuming, what we should be cutting, and why. Luckily, registered dietitian Toby Amidor was on our Ask the Expert webchat on Tuesday to answer your questions about healthy eating. With over 15 years experience in the food and nutrition industry, Toby, MS, RD is a leading dietitian and recipe developer who believes that healthy and wholesome can also be appetizing and delicious. Toby is the founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition, where she provides nutrition and food safety consulting services for individuals, restaurants and food brands. She is a nutrition expert for FoodNetwork.com, writing for their Healthy Eats Blog, a regular contributor to U.S. News and World Report Eat + Run blog, Shape.com, MensFitness.com and an adjunct professor at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Here are the highlights from our webchat with Toby. For our French users, we ran a similar webchat with Isabelle Huot, which you can access here. Please keep in mind all user participation is anonymous and confidential.

Choosing oils

QUESTION — “I switched to coconut oil for cooking and extra virgin olive oil for salads etc, but now I am hearing coconut oil may not be good for low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL). Can you please recommend a good cooking oil within a decent price point.”

Toby Amidor — “I like to keep a few cooking oils in my repertoire. My favorite cooking oils for stove-top cooking include olive oil, safflower oil, and canola oil. For dressings, extra-virgin olive oil is a perfect choice. If you want to use coconut oil once in a while to add flavor to dishes, you can still use it every so often.”

To dairy, or not to dairy

QUESTION — “I have heard that dairy (milk products) is not healthy for us, that we should move to a more plant-based diet. What are your thoughts on that?”

Toby Amidor — “There are many science-based benefits of consuming dairy products, including bone health, gut health (with fermented dairy), and weight loss/maintenance. Dairy also provides 9 essential nutrients including calcium. protein, vitamin D, and potassium, which are all nutrients most folks don’t get enough of. The only other milk that comes close to the nutrition of cows’ milk is soy milk. All the other milk alternatives don’t measure up to most of the nutrients found in cows’ milk, especially protein. If you choose to drink plant-based milks, it should be in addition to 3 daily servings from the dairy group per day. The only reason it’s recommended to avoid dairy is if you are allergic to it.”

Advice for vegetarians and vegans

QUESTION — “If ordering a veggie burger from a fast food outlet, is the difference in nutritional value between that and a regular meat burger really of much significance?”

Toby Amidor — “Veggie burgers widely vary between restaurants (including fast food outlets). When I used to work at a hospital, the veggie burger was made using leftover vegetables and legumes, but an establishment can use any type of veggie or legume to make it. Compared to a beef burger, for example, a veggie burger should have much less cholesterol and saturated fat. Again, this also depends if they are using cheese and eggs in their burger. Your best bet is to check the nutrition facts of the restaurant and compare it to the beef burger.”

QUESTION — “What are the benefits (if any) of eating vegan (no meat or animal products)? Can it cause health problems?”

Toby Amidor — “Eating vegan is a personal choice. If you choose to go vegan, that means that you aren’t including any animal products in your diet including eggs, dairy, meats, and even honey. This also means that you need to educate yourself on how you will maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet and obtain the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy. Eating a wide variety of foods like beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats (oils, avocado, coconut) may not be enough. Oftentimes vegans need supplements, especially of vitamin B12 which is found in animal products. If you do choose to go vegan, I recommend seeing a registered dietitian and your medical practitioner to ensure that you are taking in all the nutrients you need and they can recommend any supplements, if needed, based on your diet.”

Don’t miss our next Ask the Expert session!

If you weren’t able to catch our webchat with Toby Amidor, you can always sign into your LifeSpeak account to read the transcript. And be sure to log in February 13 at noon EST to chat with Tim Sitt, who will explain how you can incorporate more movement into your workday. If you don’t have a LifeSpeak account, please have your HR team reach out to us.

What is Ask the Expert?

Our Ask the Expert sessions allow our users to have regular access to our experts in real time, which allows them to have their pressing questions answered. This opportunity provides our users with practical and easily implemented tips to help them make real changes in their lives. To learn more, don’t hesitate to book a demo.