Dietitian: Pass the fruits and veggies, please

Nicholas Arensdorf is the new dietitian at the Jefferson County Health Center.

Arensdorf has been at the health center almost a year. Before that, he was doing post-graduate work at Mercy Hospital in Cedar Rapids. He also served in an international rotation for a month in the African nation of Ghana where he helped assess the extent of malnourishment and educate the locals in nutrition.

Arensdorf went to West Liberty High School, and got his degree in dietetics from Iowa State University in 2016.

In his role as dietitian at JCHC, Arensdorf works with in-patients and out-patients. In-patients are those staying in the health center, while out-patients merely visit the health center for their appointment. He teaches classes, too, like the nutritional components of diabetes and cancer. The oncology class that dealt with cancer touched on how to handle the symptoms of chemotherapy, such as sore throat or unintended weight loss.

Chemotherapy patients sometimes report being sensitive to metalic tastes, like that from silverware or food from a can. Arensdorf advises them on non-metalic substitutes for those things.

Arensdorf gives people advice about how to reduce their risk of getting cancer. Prevention involves eating lots of fruits and vegetables, which have vitamins and antioxidants associated with a reduced cancer risk.

The American Institute for Cancer Research also recommends:

? Avoiding processed meats and limiting red meat to no more than 18 ounces per week;

? Avoid sugary drinks;

? Limit consumption of salty foods;

? Limit consumption of alcohol; and

? Be physically active for at least 30 minutes per day.

? ? ?

The health center is planning a heart healthy open house for February. Arensdorf said there will be a variety of presentations, perhaps cooking like there was for the diabetes open house on Nov. 16. For that, the health center?s head chef prepared healthy alternatives to Thanksgiving dishes, such as garlic mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes, and a sweet potato and carrot casserole.

?It was a Thanksgiving meal but with fewer carbohydrates and less salt, which causes high blood pressure and puts stress on the kidneys and heart,? Arensdorf said.

He added that condiments such as ketchup or barbecue sauce can contain a surprising amount of sugar and salt.

?Sweets in general can be a hidden source of sodium,? he said.

Arensdorf said he was once a religious carb-counter, but he?s less strict about counting them now and sticks to generic guidelines like eating more fruits and vegetables and less processed food.

Arensdorf?s goal is to develop better intergenerational communication skills.

?It?s hard to appeal to the values of all ages, but you?ve got to know your audience when communicating in the classroom or in the kitchen,? he said.

Arensdorf has prepared a list of recommendations to follow for ?heart healthy holiday eating.? Here they are, in his own words:


Healthful holiday alternatives

- It can be very helpful to find recipes or ideas that incorporate more healthful foods into traditional holiday recipes, such as those with more non-starchy vegetables, fresh or frozen fruits, and leaner proteins, and using heart healthy fats, like canola oil, olive oil, and nuts and seeds.


Portion Sizes

- It?s important not to eat every meal like it?s Thanksgiving dinner.

- One tip is to look at your plate. Following MyPlate guidelines, where half your plate is fruit and vegetables, a quarter whole grains, a quarter lean and low sodium protein, and a serving of dairy is a great reference point, but it fails to mention plate size.

- One of my best tips is to give your plate a second glance and look at it?s size. We are so used to clearing our plates and being satisfied with what we?ve been served, that research shows using smaller plates and utensils helps us make more appropriate portion size choices without sacrificing satisfaction.


Big picture

- Looking at the big picture, one holiday meal is not the end of the world.

- It?s more important to focus on things we should be aiming to include on the other days of the year, such as fruits and non-starchy vegetables, not focusing on things to reduce or limit, like added sugar and salt. This can help provide a more positive mindset towards making healthful lifestyle changes that are sustainable.

- It?s helpful to not focus on food during the holidays, rather, focus on enjoying time with family and friends and spreading happiness ? what the holidays are really all about.