Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Dietitian recommends balanced approach and menu planning

It’s a brave man who wades into a Super Bowl party knee-deep in nachos, beer and chicken wings rocking a jug of juice-infused water and Tupperware full of carrots and dip.

It’s a brave man who wades into a Super Bowl party knee-deep in nachos, beer and chicken wings rocking a jug of juice-infused water and Tupperware full of carrots and dip.

It takes an even bigger man to hand-dip strawberries in diabetic chocolate to offer to staff and colleagues on Valentine’s Day.

But that’s larger-than-life Troy Wilson. His motto from his trainer these days is “eat clean, train dirty.”

Times Colonist Health Challenge participants have headed into the fourth week of this fit-for-life journey trying to tweak their food plans, counter their cravings, meet their nutritional requirements, and fuel their workouts.

READ MORE Times Colonist Health Challenge stories

With everyone an expert on nutrition these days and every Hollywood celebrity, television doctor and late-night infomercial pushing a new diet craze, our Challengers are trying to adhere to the sensible advice from their dietitians, trainers and doctors. Wilson knew it would take all of his willpower to get through the temptations of a Super Bowl party so he prepped his food ahead of time.

“Everyone showed up with a six-pack. I showed up with a party pack of veggies and dip, raspberry-flavoured water and some curry chicken soup. Boy, it was tough. But I made it through.”

Wilson’s trainer has him working out six days a week and eating every two to three hours.

“There were a couple days that I didn’t follow my nutrition plan, I didn’t cheat [with bad food]. I just ate my dinner after 8 p.m., or skipped a meal because of work, which really threw my energy levels off,” Wilson said.

Eating a few meals and snacks throughout the day, managing smaller portions and balancing carboyhydrates, protein and vegetables is key, according to Heather Dueck, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant with Pacific Institute for Sport Fitness.

Dueck hosts a nutrition workshop for Health Challenge participants on Monday. She will start with myth-busting facts.

Complex carbs are not evil — they fuel your brain and give you energy, Dueck said. Healthy fats — found in avocados and nuts, for example — are also your buddy. Coconut oil is not the be all and end all because it is still a saturated fat, she said. Olive oil and canola oil are unsaturated, heart-healthy choices.

Dueck is also not a fan of the gluten-free trend as a weight-loss method because whole grains can be a great source of minerals and vitamins and fibre, she said.

The term “bad” foods is not in Dueck’s vocabulary and she is not a fan of “cheat” days or cutting out or overdoing any one food group — carbs or protein, for example.

On planet awesome, as I like to call it after seeing The Lego Movie, half of your plate should consist of vegetables, with protein and carbohydrates (potato with the skin on or a cup of whole-wheat pasta, for example) filling one-quarter each. Using a side plate can help with portion control. Too often, people lose weight by cutting out certain food groups, which might not be a realistic or successful way of achieving a lifestyle change, Dueck said.

“It is really challenging to lose weight,” she said. “It will not happen overnight. People have to be in it for the long-term and be willing to maintain it.”

Also on planet awesome, people who decide to have a glass of wine or french fries or chocolate should really enjoy the moment and “just move on,” she said.

She has seen clients sabotage a whole week of exercise and sound nutrition on one so-called “cheat day.” An exercise routine that burns off 300 calories three times a week — for a total of 900 calories — can be defeated by one day of high-caloric bingeing, she said. As a new mother, Dueck recommends busy people who want to commit to healthy eating choose two days a week to prepare their food for the days ahead — on Sundays and Wednesdays, for example.

Vanessa White said as a busy mom she can’t make separate meals, so she adds substitutes or revamps her portion of the family meal. On taco nights, she makes her meal into a salad, and on pasta nights she focuses on portion size and adds a salad.

“When craving sweets, I will choose dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate … or whip up a chocolate peanut butter smoothie with healthy ingredients instead of ice cream.”

Meanwhile, Pam Wohlleben says she’s overwhelmed with all the conflicting science on nutrition and weight loss and wants to hear some sustainable meal ideas and sound advice from Dueck’s workshop.

This week, I found that sitting down with a dietitian is worse than confession. Instead of just listing your sins and getting three Hail Marys and an Our Father as a priest might do, the nutritionist questions your confession:

“Forgive me, father, for I have binged …”

Dueck: “What do you have with your healthy wrap?”

Me, the holy one: “An egg white.”

Dueck: “One?”

MTHO: “Well, I pour the egg-white carton until a large pan is full.”

Dueck: “So about four eggs?”

MTHO: “Hmmm.”

Dueck: “How much coffee in the morning?”

MTHO: “On a bad day at home, about three or four cups; the pot.”

Dueck: “What does your coffee pot say it holds?”

MTHO: “10 cups.”

Dueck: “Do you drink?”

MTHO: “No. Well, one glass of red wine on the weekend.”

Dueck. “When does the weekend start?”

MTHO: “Thursday?”

Dueck sits down with clients to collect a full inventory of what they are eating and how active they are. Using various formulas including weight, diet and activity, the dietitian can then estimate how many calories the client is burning and how many they need to reduce (or burn) to lose weight.

With that, Dueck gives them a nutritional food plan. Ideally, she sees clients three or four more times during the year to monitor their progress and make adjustments.

Like many people struggling with their weight, I have discussed with Dueck that I have to eat much more — snacks and regularly timed meals — but I also must avoid late-night snacks and exercise more.

So this week I say goodbye to my near nightly routine of cheese and crackers in front of The National with Peter Mansbridge. How did that become a thing? I don’t know. When being interrogated by Dueck, I snapped, and blamed my husband. It was him or Mansbridge.

Back to the confessional.


 Participant/Week  1  2  3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12
 Angela  222  220  220  218                
 Vanessa  183  180  179  175                
 Cat  191  188  188  186                
 Chrystine  259  253  252  247                
 Cindy  167  163  162  159                
 Pam  212  210  209  207                
 Troy  362  350  343  341                
 Van den Hengel family  796  796  787  782                

1. Weight measured in pounds 2. Angela and Vanessa are sisters
3. Van den Hengel family is Elizabeth, Justin, Max, Alex, Grace and Julien