Nutrition Class Assignment

As some of you know, I’m currently taking a nutrition class for my program. Specifically, it’s called, “Nutrition for Fitness Instructors,” and is centered around sports nutrition and recommendations for athletes and active people. I dreaded this class before it started because I knew that it would revolve around USDA guidelines and the standard American diet. Obviously, I’m not a fan and cannot promote either of these things.

I’ve had my moments of frustration in the class, and listening to lectures about the USDA’s MyPlate is darn painful, but the class hasn’t been all bad. Fortunately, my teacher is pretty cool and open-minded. I was thrilled on the day of the carbohydrate lecture when she promoted vegetables and fruits as carbohydrate sources, and went on to mention that some people don’t eat grains, and it’s fine. She said that people forget that veggies and fruit are carbohydrate sources, which is very true. I hope all my classmates were listening at that moment.

Anyway, we were given an assignment recently consisting of 11 scenarios, in which we had to give recommendations based on what we’ve talked about and learned in class. Some questions were fine and didn’t annoy me as much as others, but the two scenarios/questions below irked me a lot, because I know exactly how most people will respond, especially regarding cholesterol. No, my teacher did not come up with these scenarios, rather the authors of our textbook did.

I responded to both of these questions addressing my personal reservations. I could not pretend. If I get marked down, so be it. I don’t know if she’ll necessarily mark me down anyway, but again, I’m not concerned. We already discussed that people don’t have to eat grains or dairy, so I’m sure she won’t think much about my response for that one. I can guarantee many other students will say the woman needs to eat grains though, but not necessarily the dairy. I say this, because I was discussing the questions in class with two other students and they both said, “yes, she needs to eat grains.” I looked at both of them and told them that I disagreed wholeheartedly and went on to tell them that I haven’t eaten grains in 1.5 years. They both seemed very surprised. I was happy to make my point clear that people don’t need grains, and reminded them that carbohydrates can come from sources like vegetables.

Grain products are often baked, and are rich s...
No, grains are NOT essential. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Both of these scenarios left out a lot of details. I know the questions are just asking for very basic recommendations, but I would never address these questions or give advice without knowing more information first. I even stated this in my answers. I know, it may seem like I over-complicated the questions, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. The additional information I need regarding their lifestyle and current diet is basic in my opinion.

Also, as you may notice, Julie from scenario #1 is doing way too much cardio. Where’s your strength training/heavy lifting, Julie?

Okay, okay, that’s enough, I suppose. I could probably go on about these questions forever. But, what do you think about these questions? Would you put the “right” answer just to get a good grade or would you say otherwise and stand up for what you believe?

Scenario #1

Julie is interested in losing weight. She enjoys participating in step aerobics, kickboxing, and muscle conditioning group fitness classes 4-5 times per week. She eliminated all breads, pastas, and other grains, as well as dairy products from her diet 4 months ago to help her lose weight. She lost a couple pounds initially, but has struggled to continue her weight loss. Juile’s goal is to lose another 5 pounds while also feeling more energetic during the day at work.

Questions: Does Julie need to start eating grains and dairy again? Please provide justification for your answer. If she refuses to eat grains and dairy, what would you suggest as an alternative?

English: CORONADO, Calif. (Jan. 14, 2009) Fitn...
Julie does a lot of cardio. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scenario #2

Calvin is a 19-year old collegiate gymnast. He has been consuming approximately 3,200 calories per day, feels energetic, recovers well and has maintained his weight at 150 pounds for the last 2 years. After a recent blood test, he discovered that his total cholesterol is 235. He is concerned about this result, and asks for your assistance in making the necessary dietary changes to lower his cholesterol.

Questions: How many grams of total fat, as well as saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, would you recommend Calvin consume daily? Do you have any other dietary suggestions that would help Calvin lower his cholesterol?

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10 thoughts on “Nutrition Class Assignment

  1. Healthy A-Z January 31, 2013 / 10:04 am

    I was looking forward to seeing the details of YOUR response. Is there going to be a Part 2? 🙂

  2. paleoinpdx January 31, 2013 / 10:10 am

    I thought about leaving more details, but the post was getting lengthy, so I just alluded to certain details. I’m more interested in hearing others’ thoughts. Maybe I could do a part II…we’ll see.

  3. Cinnamoneats January 31, 2013 / 11:41 am

    First of all Alisa I think the best thing to do is to be true to yourself. I mean sure it might be better to give a stock standard answer to these two scenarios and not rock the boat if you will… BUT knowing what you know and how you live your life would you be ok with that?

    From what you’ve said about your teacher she seems open minded or at least somewhat so I think if you take what you know from Paleo, the nutrition, the fitness, whole lifestyle aspects of it and write a response to these two scenarios that doesn’t look like an attack on conventional wisdom (even if you think that way anyway) but rather a gentle approach to the Paleo aspect of it and making sure at the same time to get your point across.

    You may be questioned for your stance on things but as you and I both know there is plenty of science to back all of these things up so it’s not like you’ll be pulling answers out of thin air.

    Does that make sense?

    Oh and I agree with Healthy A-Z I’d love to read your responses too 🙂

    • paleoinpdx January 31, 2013 / 2:31 pm

      Thanks, Naz, very well said and I agree with your perspective. I shared my basic recommendations, which revolve around paleo, but not without mentioning that I really needed more information before I could truly provide such recommendations. I didn’t want to overwhelm my teacher with too much at once, so I tried to limit some of my input. I know I’ll have other opportunities to share more, and I definitely plan to do so. I’ve learned with paleo, that it’s best not to go balls out all at once, but rather, share in pieces.

      Honestly, the responses to these scenario questions could be miles long, and I guarantee mine were already longer than my classmates’ responses. With the cholesterol one, specifically, I gave her the fat range numbers she was looking for at the end of my answer, but didn’t advocate for them myself. I made this very clear and told her I had my own reservations about fats and cholesterol.

      Thanks again for your feedback!

  4. Sean Robins January 31, 2013 / 2:00 pm

    I’ve always hated questions like this because they generally raise more questions, and when the instructor expects a definitive answer you end up with an answer without the benefit of ALL of the facts that you might have in a real world scenario.

    E.g.: Do either Julie or Calvin drink enough water each day? Does Julie really need to lose that extra 5 pounds, or has she been eating other foods that have a high sugar content – I.e.: sabotaging her diet? If Julie were to consume dairy or grains again, would she start gaining weight again? For Calvin you would probably end up recommending lean meats, eliminating starches and reducing oils to the Paleo specifics, but before simply recommending drastic changes in diet, you’d really need to know what his diet consisted of now to have made his total cholesterol so high, and even with high cholesterol, what is the ratio of LDL vs HDL, and is his LDL & Triglyceride count low enough for his cholesterol to not be clinically “OK”?

    So while I hate needing to answer these sorts of questions for assignments, I also love these questions because they make you think. The question is, what is more important for YOU in this situation, to stand by your belief and experience, or to get a good grade?

    If it were me and the grade wasn’t going to affect my final course outcome, I’d phrase the answer as another question, and present my own Paleo answer, but give references to research papers that support my position. In other words, be proud, but also be clever because I also like getting good grades. If on the other hand the grade is essential to the final course outcome, I’d simply swallow my pride do what I need to pass the course, knowing that I will have the freedom to use both class taught and self taught knowledge as I saw fit once I’m qualified, 😛

    Great Post BTW. 🙂

    • paleoinpdx January 31, 2013 / 2:14 pm

      Sean, I love your response and thought processes, and agree completely! More questions are definitely raised from these situations and there is not enough information to give legitimate recommendations. I guess it does make it kinda fun in that way. It makes me realize how much more I’m thinking about it than the average student in my class.

      When I answered the questions, I stated that more specific information was needed, but because I knew this wouldn’t be good enough as an answer (I couldn’t forfeit all my points, though like I said, my teacher is pretty cool), I gave some of MY basic food recommendations, which revolve around paleo, of course. For the cholesterol one specifically, I gave her the fat percentage ranges she was looking for, and stated, “here’s what you’re looking for,” but let her know I had my own reservations about fat and cholesterol.

      Thanks for your input! I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

  5. Paleo Mom on the Run February 1, 2013 / 5:45 am

    You have to tell us your response! Erghhh! I get so frusterated when The Plate is being taught.

  6. Matt February 7, 2013 / 10:44 am

    Both questions leave out a lot of information, as you stated.

    In Scenario #1, Julie eliminated grains and dairy, but it doesn’t mention what she IS consuming. It’s pretty hard to make dietary recommendations without knowing a client’s diet. (Perhaps she’s eating 30 bananas a day)

    Furthermore, the question paints a picture of Julie being unreasonable if she continues to not eat grains and dairy (which of course the USDA recommends as ESSENTIAL) by saying “if she REFUSES to eat grains and dairy…” as though you should start with the advice that she re-incorporate them into her diet.

    It also says she wants to “lose weight,” which is more vague than “burn fat.” With her chronic cardio overtraining, it’s likely her cortisol levels are elevated to unhealthy levels, and her body is under a lot of stress, which has caused her plateau, which we can’t know for sure without a LOT of other information such as diet, sleep quality, and other lifestyle choices.

    In Scenario #2, the premise is that saturated fat causes an increase in total cholesterol, so how many grams of each type of fat should Calvin have each day to reduce this “scary” number?
    Again, you can’t answer that question without more information about Calvin’s diet and lifestyle. What about HDL vs. LDL, and the even-less-discussed VLDL? What are those numbers? What is Calvin is CURRENTLY on a diet on minimal (<10% of calories) diet of saturated fat? Should he increase his intake of quality sources of saturated fat??? (A: Yes.)

    I envy your patience with these questions, and I'm glad you have an open-minded teacher.

    • paleoinpdx February 7, 2013 / 2:16 pm

      Thanks for your input and observations, Matt! I totally agree with you on everything, and these were similar thoughts that I had myself. I am very fortunate to have a cool teacher. I got this assignment back today and got a perfect score, and some notes of agreement on various answers. My teacher also wrote me a little note, recommending that I read Paleo for Athletes. She read this book and liked it and thought I’d enjoy it too. I haven’t read Cordain’s books, but am familiar with his work and the paleo foundations he set, but I know some of the info in his books is out of date. Regardless, it was still cool to get a paleo recommendation from my nutrition teacher, who does not even eat paleo herself, though is loosely familiar with some of the principles.

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