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Individual nutrition needs very different

Stop by the Health 1st Wellness Wednesday table between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Aug. 20 in the Children’s Hospital lobby to receive a brief assessment of personal nutritional needs.

by Janet Carter

Registered dietitian
We are all very different. Our nutrition needs are very different, as well. As nutrition experts, registered dietitians (RD) can help  estimate your nutrition needs while explaining the nutrients and their effects on your body. Reading a nutrition facts label doesn’t explain the quantitative relationship between nutritious value and your body’s need, i.e., what is a lot or what is a little.

The following is a brief summary of the amounts of specific nutrients that the average healthy adult needs each day. (An RD can provide a more accurate formula of what you would need, and would provide recommendations based on important factors such as weight loss, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.)

Calories are a measure of the energy in food and the energy that our body uses to function. Plain and simple, if we eat more calories than our body uses, we would gain weight. Conversely, if we eat fewer calories than our body uses, we would lose weight. If we keep both calories in and calories out the same, our weight would stay the same.
Calculating someone’s calorie needs is a tricky process. There are ways to directly measure one’s calorie needs while at rest. Others include Bod Pod, underwater weighing, and metabolic cart, but these are not always available and can be expensive. Another way is to use a calculation that estimates your calorie needs based on your height, weight and age. This calculation is pretty close to the direct measurements, but you have to also factor in activity level. That becomes tough to do, since it is usually an educated guess. Again, this is where an RD can offer expert guidance.
The commonly used equation for estimating calorie needs at rest for adults (Harris-Benedict Equation) is: Women: 655 + 9.56 (weight in kilograms) + 1.85 (height in centimeters) – 4.68 (age); Men: 66.5 + 13.75 (weight in kilograms) + 5.0 (height in centimeters) – 6.78 (age).

Fat has gotten a bad reputation through the years. Of course, too much fat is not healthy, but getting enough of the good fats can protect you against heart disease and other health problems. We need some fat in our diet to help us transport and absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, D, and K). But most of us don’t have an issue about getting enough fat, but rather too much fat. Also, there are good fats and bad fats. The good fats are unsaturated. These include foods like olive oil, nuts and flaxseed oil. Bad fats are saturated. About 30 percent of your calories should come from fat (also remember that 1 gram of fat has 10 calories). The calculation is 1,600 calories: 48 grams; 1,800 calories: 54 grams; 2,000 calories: 60 grams; and 2,200 calories: 66 grams.
For those label readers, here’s a quick way to find out if something is too high in fat or not (based on the 30 percent recommendation):
Take the calories from fat and multiply it by 3. Compare that number to the total calories. If it’s higher, that item is too high in fat. This equation will not work with peanut butter, mayonnaise, salad dressing, cheese, olive oil, etc., since these items are primarily fats.

Saturated fat
We need some saturated fat in our diet, but very little. Too much saturated fat can cause our body to produce more cholesterol than it needs, which can then build up in our blood vessel walls. Remembering that 1 gram of fat contains 10 calories, adults need less than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fat, or 1,600 calories: 16 grams; 1,800 calories: 18 grams; 2, 000 calories: 20 grams; 2,200 calories: 22 grams.

Trans fat
Trans fats are found very minimally in nature. The major source of these fats is through a process called hydrogenation that was created to make products more shelf-stable. Trans fats are not good for our bodies. Trans fats also cause our body to produce more cholesterol than it needs, which can than build up on our blood vessel walls. In addition, trans fats can stick in your vessel walls, increasing your risk for heart disease or stroke. Trans fats should be avoided.

Even for those with high cholesterol, dietary cholesterol is not necessarily your worst enemy, unless you’re getting too much of it. Adults should have no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day in their diets. Cholesterol is only found in animal foods, so you don’t have to look for it in your fruits, vegetables, or whole grains.

Too much sodium can raise blood pressure in salt-sensitive people. Healthy adults should try for less than 2,400 mg per day. A teaspoon of table salt has about 2,300 mg, so we should try to limit the salt we add in cooking and at the table. Some folks with certain health conditions may need to decrease their sodium intake even further.

Fiber is important for our body in that it helps us stay regular, and it also can help lower blood cholesterol. If your daily diet includes whole grains and at least five servings of fruits and vegetables, you’re probably doing OK with your fiber needs. Otherwise, adults need a minimum of 20-35 grams of fiber per day, or 11.5 grams per 1,000 calories.

Protein has many important jobs in our body. Most of us get plenty of protein, and more likely, more than we need. Too much protein can also be stored as fat in the body. Adult recommendations are 0.8 grams per kilogram body weight. (That there are 7 grams of protein in one ounce of meat, so a 3-ounce chicken breast, which is about the size of a deck of cards, provides about 21 grams of protein.)
More information on individual nutritional needs and calculations can be obtained from Outpatient Nutrition Services, sixth floor Rutledge Tower (RT), Greer Gowen, registered dietitian (RD), 876-0671; Weight Management Center, IOP Suite 410 South Side, Tonya Turner, RD,  92-5434; Bariatric Surgery Clinic, Digestive Disease Center/ART, Debbie Petitpain, RD (876-4867) and Nina Crowley, RD (876-4307)  or visit;  Pediatric Endocrine Clinic, Katherine Nashatker, RD, 876-0479; Cystic Fibrosis Clinic (for children, fourth floor, RT) (adults, fifth floor, RT), Kristin Crady, RD, 792-9002; and Heart Health (Pediatric Weight Management) Pediatric Cardiology, sixth Floor Children’s Hospital, Janet Carter, RD, 792-4717.
Group sessions are held at 5 p.m. Wednesdays; Pediatric Cardiology Clinic Waiting Room; and fitness sessions at Gazes Research Center. Also, visit

Editor's note: The preceding column was brought to you on behalf of Health 1st. Striving to bring various topics and representing numerous employee wellness organizations and committees on campus, this weekly column seeks to provide MUSC, MUHA and UMA employees with current and helpful information concerning all aspects of health.


Friday, Aug. 15, 2008
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