Taking a look at everyday nutrition

Diana Cullum-Dugan

What you’re about to embark upon is the result of a really fun hour with Gwenn Friss, journalist with the Cape Cod Times.

Diana Cullum-Dugan, a registered dietitian and yoga teacher, managed the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center and created meal plans and recipes for “The Overnight Diet” featured on TV shows “Dr. Oz” and “Good Morning America.” Cullum-Dugan hosted her first on-Cape seminar this weekend at the Sage Inn & Lounge’s Cape Cod Wellness Weekend. In a telephone interview on her way back from Provincetown to her Watertown office (, she answered some questions:

Q: What is the most common nutrition mistake you encounter?

A. No. 1, all the time, is lack of planning. People work all day, they come home, they’re starving. They grab cheese and crackers or chips to munch while they figure out and cook dinner. Calorie-wise, they’ve already eaten dinner, but they go ahead and eat the dinner because they’ve made it.

Q: What are some solutions?

A. I ask clients to go online and Google two to four meals they would like to make for dinner, and to try one new recipe a week. Print them out, make a grocery list. Shop and prep on the weekend so you know what you are making. If you are hungry while cooking, throw together a green leafy salad with homemade olive oil dressing to munch. Or sometimes something savory will hold you. I microwave three Italian-seasoned olives for 10 seconds and savor each one while dinner is cooking.

Portion control is important, but I have clients who don’t want to measure or keep a food log. I recommend the plate method: half your plate is veggies at lunch and dinner so then I know you are getting at least your three cups a day.

I find a lot of people eat at work. If you have a refrigerator, shop on the weekend and bring food for the week. Even for breakfast, bring a box of cereal and a container of milk.

Q: Is nutrition different for different ages?

A. A lot of times, the metabolic rate is different. Peri-menopausal women may gain 8 to 10 pounds and can’t lose it until they are post-menopausal. Some women can lose it. Typically, yes, for everyone, eat a little less as you get older, when metabolism slows down and activity is less.

Q. How about people with Type 2 diabetes?

A. I would tell someone with diabetes the same as anyone. My approach is more of an anti-inflammatory one. My No. 1 go-to for people with diabetes is that they eat a lot more veggies and fruits (spaced over three to four meals). They say ‘Isn’t fruit sugar?’ Yes, but it’s important along with vegetables and whole grains. Try high-protein quinoa or farro; oatmeal instead of a bagel. And less oatmeal in the bowl, more stewed apple or blueberries.

Good fats are important: Olive oil salad dressings; avocado slices; if you eat animal proteins, eggs (an excellent clean protein that have gotten a bad rap); and, occasionally, omega-3 rich salmon. Limit dairy, milk, cottage cheese and yogurt, because it tends to cause inflammation.

Ground flax seed is good for inflammation. Eat it ground in cold cereal or oatmeal. It has to be ground because the shells are so hard our digestion can’t handle them. Flaxseed oil doesn’t give the same benefit.

Stay away from manufactured fat-free stuff. Make your own dressing with olive oil, flax seed, Dijon mustard, garlic, a little chili with lime.

Q: Is this country making any progress toward good nutrition?

A. When you get government involved in our lives, people get very frustrated. But when the government was thinking of, and now is, banning trans fats, it was helpful. Even when the government was just talking about it, manufacturers starting changing their recipes. (Margarine sticks becoming tubs without hydrogenated fats, for example.)

And after the mayor of New York required calorie posting, others started posting calories. Starbucks and McDonald’s do.

Some studies are showing posted calorie counts don’t change how people order. But recently I tried Burger King’s “Satisfries” because they are advertised as having 40 percent less fat and 30 percent fewer calories. I liked them; they were thicker waffle fries that tasted more like potatoes. The interesting thing was I had to wait while they made them because eight people in the line ordered those instead of regular fries.

Q: What’s one change you got across this year?

A. I have a client who is a chef. She came in because she was gaining weight steadily. After a while, she said, ‘I realized it’s from food I’m cooking at the restaurant so I’m looking for ways to get the same flavor with better (more nutritional) foods.’


By Gwenn Friss

January 22, 2014



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