Lemond Nutrition Articles

Top 5 Food Restrictions & Their Potential Health Implications

By Angela Lemond, RDN, CSP, LD // Jan 15, 2015

Dangers of Food Restriction

While it is true, food allergies and food-related disorders are on the rise, and the established cause(s) are unknown.  This type of rising health issue can wreak all kinds of fears that then cause people to make unnecessary changes to their diets and even more concerning, changes to their child’s diets.  Children are in a rapid state of growth, and that growth requires adequate nutrition from a variety of foods.  Unnecessarily taking out food groups from anyone’s daily intake can do the opposite of your goal – it can cause health problems.  But what if your doctor has diagnosed you or your loved one with a food allergy, intolerance or other food-related disorder?  We work with some phenomenal physicians that regularly make referrals to us for nutritional guidance.  But too many families are trying to navigate their new food restrictions on their own.  

Apart from the food allergy/intolerance reason, more people are fearful of what is in their food.  There are several reasons why this is the case, but much of it is coming from activists that have published blogs, documentaries and exposés on the American food industry.  We see these people coming to our office wanting to get their families off certain foods.  In many cases, we are able to calm their fears for the various unsubstantiated claims with evidence-based information.  But ultimately, we want to guide them through what they ultimately decide to do instead of them doing it on their own.

Here are top 5 food restrictions we see that are occurring – and the potential health/nutritional consequences that can occur without proper guidance.

Dairy-free 
When you think of the nutrients in dairy, many think of calcium.  Some may even think of calcium and vitamin D.  But did you know there are actually 9 essential nutrients in dairy foods?  They include calcium, vitamin D, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin A, protein, riboflavin and vitamin B12.  The three that are already low in the average American diet is calcium, potassium and vitamin D.  We often get toddlers that are coming in drinking almond milk because their parents report a diagnosed or undiagnosed milk intolerance.  Almond milk is not high enough in calories and protein for toddlers and some preschoolers – and some forms are not enriched with calcium and vitamin D.  Toddlers that already take in very little protein often get their protein from dairy foods at this age.  We must educate families on ways to fill these nutrient gaps.  If you are navigating this on your own, you will often fall short.  Let’s go with an adult example.  We see adults come in for weight loss that have a history of hypertension (high blood pressure) and they are not eating diary because “it doesn’t agree with their stomachs.”  Did you know that dairy is part of the well-established DASH diet?  This has been deemed the best diet for the 5th year by U.S. News and World Reports.  DASH which is an acronym for “Dietary Approaches for Stopping Hypertension” emphasizes foods that are naturally high in calcium, potassium and magnesium.  We can either help them enjoy dairy again, or find alternate foods that they will eat that contain these nutrients.  Without proper guidance, a person could be missing an opportunity to help decrease their health condition by using nutrition therapy.

Wheat-free/Gluten-Free
This has been a big one these last couple years.  More than ever, people are going off wheat or gluten for the simple fact that they seem to feel better when they do so.  While some people clearly need to do so in the case of an established diagnosis of celiac disease, consider getting more testing before taking this drastic step. If testing comes back negative and you still want to trial a wheat-free or gluten-free diet, seek a registered dietitian nutritionist that can help you navigate your new eating plan that does not compromise your nutrition status. Whole wheat and other wheat products provide many essential nutrients such as vitamin E, B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6, K along with important minerals such as potassium, magnesium, zinc, copper and selenium.  Many of these are lost if you are replacing wheat with say, a rice-based bread, pasta or cracker.  Wheat deletion also impacts flavor, and many gluten-free products compensate by adding sugar.    There is a healthy way to convert to a wheat-free or gluten-free diet and get all the necessary nutrients while minimizing added sugar.  But professional, credentialed advice is critical.  If you rely on Internet searches, it is highly likely you will find wrong information.  We no longer live in a world where we can blindly trust written information.

Vegan or Other Forms of Vegetarianism
Proper vegetarian eating can be extremely healthy.  High plant-based diets have been rightly tied to increased longevity, disease prevention and have actually been a big healing tool in the fight among serious diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.  With all that being said, there are many nutritional consequences to a vegetarian diet improperly executed.  We have actually had people come into Lemond Nutrition wanting to go vegetarian, but they do not like vegetables!  You can absolutely be a vegetarian and live off junk food that is free of all animal products.   At the most restrictive form of vegetarianism – veganism – one must be most purposeful in getting nutrients such as protein, calcium, vitamin D vitamin B12 and iron.  Without proper planning, these nutrient deficits can have some serious health implications.

Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates continue to be demonized as the macronutrient that contributes to obesity.  In my many years of analyzing food intake, it is even more obvious to me that calories from all foods with inadequate physical activity are the culprit.   Carbohydrates are the one nutrient that causes more fluid retention so some people get an immediate feeling of body swelling.  But without quality carbohydrates, our bodies will not function well.  The highest risk groups when it comes to carbohydrate restriction include children and highly active, health-minded people.  Parents that restrict their own carbohydrates seem to also restrict their children’s carbohydrates.  I hear parents tell me, “I don’t know why my kids love their carbs so much!”  The behavioral ramifications of saying this in front of your kids is another subject altogether.  But the answer is that children need more carbohydrate because they are growing and are typically more active than adults.    For the active, health-minded individual I say that we need to balance good quality carbohydrates with appropriate portions of healthy fats and protein at each meal.  Cutting them out altogether can make you feel sluggish and can impact your fitness and life quality – not to mention the nutrient shortfalls depending on the type and extent of the restriction.

Calories
The lower the better, right?  Wrong.  That’s what the dieting industry will tell you.  Energy for the body is measured in kilocalories, and a chronic inadequate intake can actually cause minor and major illnesses.  In case you haven’t heard, chronic dieting is absolutely detrimental to your overall health.   Get a nutritional assessment that takes an overall look at your particular energy and nutrient needs – it is good for everyone to do that every so often – just like we get tune-ups for our precious cars, so should we get nutritional re-assessments for our bodies.

Here at Lemond Nutrition, we guide people of all ages dealing with either diagnosed food allergies, food intolerances or other food-related issues such as eosinophilic esophagitis – or people that want to do self-trials of various diets.   We provide some very helpful starter shopping lists of current on-the-market products that have been flavor-tested by our practitioners and families over the years.  The bottom line here is when in doubt, seek assistance.  There are some incredible resources that make it easier to navigate these changes and qualified professionals will guide you to them with proper monitoring.

Whatever your reason, consider visiting with a qualified registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) in your area so they can guide you through the process. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a national database of qualified registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) that will allow you to find a professional in your specific area.


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Filed Under: Food Therapy, Gluten-free, Academy Of Nutrition And Dietetics, Dietitian Expertise, Registered Dietitian, Family Feeding,

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