Ask a Dietitian

Eating right. It should be simple, and yet it can be beyond confusing. From dark chocolate to coffee to kale, there are conflicting reports about the benefits of just about everything. But we’re here to help, offering sensible advice and easy-to-follow answers for all your most urgent questions about food and nutrition.

Up this month? Carbohydrates, going meat-free and tasty alternatives to your favourite treats. You asked, we answered…

Got a question for next time? Don’t be shy!

Dear Dietitian,

What’s the difference between carbs, sugar and fibre?! I know sugar and fibre are types of carbs…but when I read nutritional fact tables, it never adds up! What’s the deal?

-Marc L.

Dear Marc,

This does get confusing, doesn’t it! First up, what the heck are carbohydrates? They are made up of sugars, fibres and starches. Carbs can be found in fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes, and they’re our bodies’ main source of energy.

So why don’t they add up on your Nutrition Fact Tables? A couple reasons. First, starches are not listed on the table – and they will often make up the missing amount. Secondly, it’s worth keeping in mind that there is always a margin of error on Nutrition Fact Table reporting, so it’s not an exact science.

But we can’t talk about carbohydrates without mentioning that they are not all created equal. There are “good” carbs and “bad” carbs. As a rule of thumb, the less it’s processed, and the higher it is in fibre and starch, the healthier and more satiating it will be. Of course we all need a sweet pick-me-up every so often, but if you stick to whole grains, your body will thank you…and you’ll find yourself less in need of that mid-afternoon snack.

Happy carb-loading!

-The Mad Radish Dietitian

Hi Mad Radish,

If you guys can’t help me, no one can. I’m really thinking about going vegetarian, but I am so scared I’ll be hungry ALL THE TIME. How much vegetarian protein do I have to eat to make up a full serving of meat? And will it really keep me full as long?

Please help!

-Amy D.

Dear Amy,

You’re right – this topic is near and dear to our hearts, as we are passionately committed to finding plant-based proteins that are every bit as tasty and satisfying as our meat options.

The fact is, protein is protein is protein. And you have nothing to fear from plant-based protein sources. In fact, it will likely bring you some health benefits.

The main thing vegetarians and vegans have to keep in mind are the building blocks of proteins, called amino acids. While animal products contain all of the essential amino acids, most plant-based proteins do not. But you can make it up by adding some whole grains to your diet (not even necessarily at the same meal!). You can also get complete proteins from animal products like eggs or dairy, and some plant proteins like quinoa, soy and buckwheat.

A good frame of reference is that the average person needs about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. And since most plant proteins are high in fibre, you don’t need to worry about getting hangry right after eating. High-fibre, high-protein meals will keep you fuller, longer…even without the meat.

Now go forth and be veggie!

-The Mad Radish Dietitian

Dear Mad Radish Dietitian,

I’m trying to make healthier choices in my diet, like cutting down on processed flours and sugars…but I’m only human. I miss my pasta, pizza and so many other favourite foods. Are there any healthier ingredients that will cure my cravings? I’m afraid if I give in once, it’ll just get easier to break my diet “rules.”

-Rebecca F.

Dear Rebecca,

You are so right. Eating well isn’t just about setting goals for yourself, it’s also learning how you can treat yourself – and how to start craving food that’s actually good for you.

The good news? There are a ton of amazingly delicious options that tick all those pizza-craving boxes. Try baking pizza on a whole-grain (or even cauliflower!) crust, and piling on the veggies. When that pasta hunger starts, reach for noodles made with brown rice, buckwheat or flax. And if you’re craving something sweet, reach for yogurt and fresh fruit.

In general, a healthy plate should contain whole grain carbs, a source of protein and lots of veggies. Within those parameters, there is a ton of room for delicious innovation. And eating like this is the first step to curbing those cravings – as you’ll be more likely to stay satisfied until your next meal.

Still not convinced? Don’t be too hard on yourself. We all treat ourselves every so often, and breaking a rule now and again doesn’t mean you’re a lost cause. When you do give in and eat something decadent, just let yourself enjoy it. And make sure your fridge is full of veggies for the next day. It’s all about striking a balance.

You got this.

-The Mad Radish Dietitian