'Ask the Expert'

Ask the Expert: “Good” & “Bad” Foods?

Question: Coming from a different culture, I often find America’s obsession with diets to somewhat jarring, especially the tendency to banish foods into “good” or “bad” categories. I personally firmly believe that there are no “good” or “bad” foods, only good or bad diets, because anything can be healthy (either physically or psychologically) in moderation. In fact, I find that obsessing over what one eats to does more psychological harm than good. What’s the expert’s view on this?

Answer: This is a great question. Rather than focusing on “good” and “bad” foods it is better to focus on an overall healthy eating and physical activity plan that fits in your lifestyle. Of course, there are foods that are better for you (like fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and foods that are not as good (like chips, cookies and candy) but all of them can be included in a healthy diet. You just want to make sure to base your diet around the healthier items and keep the portion sizes of your treats under control. A good rule to follow is the 80-20 rule; try and make 80% of your foods healthy and the other 20% can be slightly more indulgent.

Because you mentioned America’s unhealthy fixation with dieting, I think it is
important to note here that National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) week
is coming up from February 26 – March 3, 2012. The link to NEDA can be found
here.  Sadly eating disorders, disordered eating and body image dissatisfaction exist in America. NEDA works to help raise awareness surrounding these issues and support individuals and families affected by eating disorders.

By: Lisa D’Agrosa

February 27th, 2012

Call for Nutrition and Exercise Questions!

Want to know why oatmeal is a good breakfast option or how to eat on a vegan diet? Or, want to know the proper exercises to do when you don’t have a lot of time and only your body weight?

Enter a question in the comment below and one of our experts, Lisa or Dan, will get back to you.


4 comments December 3rd, 2011

Have Nutrition and Exercise ?s: Ask an Expert

Want to know more about the vegan diet? How to do the bench press? Why there is so much hype around omega-3s? What type of exercises are best in the off-season?

Calling ALL nutrition, food, eating, workout, and exercise questions. Please ask us a question in the comment box below.  Lisa, our resident Registered Dietitian, or a certified strength coach, Dan, will answer your question in the upcoming weeks.


6 comments November 14th, 2011

Ask Lisa, the RD: Omega 3s, Research Backs the Hype

Question: What’s all the hype surrounding Omega 3s about? Are they really good for you and why?

Answer: While you are right, there is a lot of talk about omega-3 fatty acids it isn’t all hype.  Omega-3s have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, hypertension, and inflammation.  They are also important for brain function.  Additionally, new research from The Ohio State University showed that college students eating Omega-3 fatty acids daily for three months reduced exam anxiety by twenty percent.  Important to remember for finals week at Tufts!

What are Omega-3s and How Can I Eat Them

Omega-3s are a type of essential fatty acid.

We need them for bodily functions but cannot make them in our bodies; therefore we need to eat them. You may see these abbreviations on food packaging: ALA (depicted above), EPA and DHA; these indicate types of omega-3s.   Plant sources of omega-3s are rich in ALA- think flaxseeds, walnuts and soybeans.  Fatty fish like salmon and sardines are rich in EPA and DHA.  While eating salmon twice a week might not be feasible on a student budget, food companies are now fortifying many foods with omega-3s such as eggs, milk, and cereals.  Additionally, flaxseed meal-which should be kept in the fridge to keep it from going bad- can be stirred into yogurt, oatmeal or used to top salads.  The American Heart Association recommends 2 servings of fish per week for healthy individuals.

The Importance of Healthy Fats

Eating omega-3s is important but so is making sure to eat the right kinds of fats.  Luckily foods that are high in omega-3s also tend to be high in poly- and mono-unsaturated fats, which are “good” fats. Eating saturated and trans fat increases the risk of heart disease.

Limit/Avoid Enjoy!
Animal Fat –bacon, fatty beef, sausage, pepperoni Nuts-look for raw or dry roasted and no salt or low sodium varieties
Partially Hydrogenated Oils-found in packaged baked foods, frostings, some margarines and crackers. Plant oils: canola, soybean, flaxseed.
Butter and High fat dairy-ice cream, full-fat milk and yogurt (pick low-fat dairy instead) Avocados and olives: both a great source of healthy fats

By: Lisa D’Agrosa, RD

Edited by Kate Sweeney


Mahan, Kathleen and Escott-Stump, Sylvia. (2004). Krause’s Food, Nutrition and Diet Therapy. Sunders 2004.

Picture from wikipedia.com

November 7th, 2011

Increasing Flexibility: Response from our BYL Expert

Question: I am not very flexible at all – my hip flexors and quads tighten extremely easily. Do you have any stretching or exercise tips to help with this?


When you think of flexibility, you are looking at the range of motion (ROM) around a joint.

The first thing to do is determine whether you suffer from:

1) A lack of length. Length of a muscle has to do with genetics, training/sports history, age, injury history, posture, etc.; however, length can be easily changed with consistent flexibility training.

2) A high amount of tension. Muscular tension (tonus) is the continuous contraction of muscle at rest or the resistance of a muscle to a stretch. The list of possible causes are generally the same as those above. The treatment, however, is usually very different.

3) or a combination of the two.

Now that we have defined the two, how can you assess which one (or both) that you are suffering from?

To determine whether the problem is length, you should test your range of motion. One simple test is to lie on the ground, facing downwards. Reach back and gently pull your foot toward your gluteal muscles (glutes). If your heel without shoes can kick your glutes, your length is fine. Another great test is to have someone perform a hip flexor length test on you. You can do this for free by signing up for the Tufts Personalized Performance Program, where every student receives five free personal training sessions (http://ase.tufts.edu/physed/ppp/main.asp). This test can assess the length in the quad and the hip flexors. It can also give you information about issues with the illiotibial band as well.

To determine if tension is the culprit, you will need a friend or a trainer. He or she would perform the above laying-down test, but while bringing the heel toward the glutes, the helper would determine where the leg fights the stretch or becomes heavier in its resistance to the movement. Another way to check tension is to have a massage therapist or chiropractor palpate the area to determine whether there is a higher than necessary amount of tension.

Okay, so we have the culprit(s) length, tension or both. What’s the treatment?

Massage tends to have a greater effect on lowering tension while stretching is better able to increase length. Stretching is never supposed to hurt, so please remember not to push yourself on a stretch; you can hurt yourself. Below are the two best quad stretches for tension. The first is a more isolated quad stretch while the second involves the hip flexors as well.

  • Isolated Quad Stretch

  • Integrated quad and hip flexor stretch: by bringing the knee behind the hip the stretch on the hip flexors as well as the quad muscle the rectus femoris is intensified.

Massage work is easy to do on the quads. However, the hip flexors (specifically the psoas major and iliacus) are best treated by a competent therapist, as they are difficult to self manipulate.

  • Rolling both quads at the same time – this is a moderate version of massage.

  • By bringing the right leg off the roller you increase the intensity on the left leg in the below photo. To make it even more intense bend the left leg (like a hamstring curl).
  • Lastly, you could use the massage stick on your quads. You can use any cylindrical item to roll the muscles. Rolling pins work but are very intense.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be used in replace of one-on-one consultation with a certified personal trainer. If you have questions or concerns, please contact a professional to speak with about your individual situation.

By: Dan Kopsco

Editor: Kate Sweeney

1 comment October 26th, 2011

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