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Clyde Beal/For The Herald-Dispatch Meredith Wellman is a licensed dietitian.

The following information is the result of an interview with Meredith Wellman, a licensed dietitian who agreed to share information about nutrition and eating habits. This information should be considered as general guidelines.

QUESTION: How important is breakfast?

"Breakfast is important because it gets your metabolism revved up for the day. It prepares you with energy that's needed to be active, and it actually helps with decision-making and interacting with others. The absence of breakfast can promote excessive cravings, which can lead to consuming excessive calories in the evenings. Cereals like oatmeal, plain Cheerios or bran flakes contain fiber and carbohydrates; these are great energy sources. Animal meats contain protein and fat, which help protect and repair our muscles and organs. A good choice would be oatmeal with milk, an egg with fruit or eggs and whole-grain toast. What you're striving for is an appropriate mix of carbohydrates, protein and fat to begin the day."

Q: Are prunes a good snack?

"Prunes can help with regularity because they have high fiber content; they also have fermentable sugars, which can help promote bowel movement."

Q: Which is better, white bread or whole wheat?

"White bread has less fiber and is processed more; wheat bread has more nutrients (vitamins and minerals), more fiber and is more wholesome."

Q: Can I eat healthy in a fast-food restaurant?

"Yes, order smaller portions of your favorite fried options like a kid's meal. Use whole-grain bread if available, and add fruit or side salads for an extra boost of nutrition. Other examples would be Wendy's baked potato and chili, Chick-fil-A grilled chicken sandwich on whole grain bun with a side salad, McDonald's kid's McNugget meal, all served with water or unsweet tea."

Q: What foods move through the colon faster?

"Plant food with fiber helps your digestive tract. Whole grains (oatmeal, whole grain bread and rice), nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables."

Q: How much sleep do I need each night?

"This depends on several factors like age, activity level, individual needs and your sleep habits. Seven to 10 hours are general guidelines, but nothing is carved in stone, it varies. What matters is that you are getting a good night sleep most nights because it's crucial to good health."

Q: What would be a typical well-rounded meal schedule for any given day?

"Start with a good breakfast within one or two hours after waking up because it helps keep your energy level stable. Eating small meals or snacks every three to four hours can help maintain energy. A light lunch like a salad with grilled chicken, corn, tomatoes and olive oil, or a whole-grain sandwich with turkey, cheese, spinach and hummus. A snack before dinner could be low-sugar yogurt with fruit; this can help overeating at dinner or before bed. Dinner should facilitate a good night's sleep; you don't want to be too hungry or too full. When planning meals and snacks, try to incorporate a variety of the five food groups like whole grains, protein foods, dairy or dairy-alternatives, fruits and vegetables."

Q: How important is drinking water?

"It's important that you stay properly hydrated, and the best way is water. Most individuals will benefit from drinking at least 64 ounces per day - depending on body size and activity level you may need more. Spring water contains electrolytes that help hydrate body cells; it has no calories or sugar."

Q: What are good and bad snacks?

"A good snack curbs hunger and keeps our energy stable, for example apples with low-sugar peanut butter, low-sugar yogurt with fruit, popcorn with olive oil and parmesan cheese, whole-wheat crackers with cheddar cheese and deli turkey. There is very little nutritional value in soda pop, candy bars, ice cream or most chips. Those should be enjoyed in moderation."

Q: Is there any nutritional value in cottage cheese?

"Yes, it's packed with calcium, protein and vitamin D. Add a fruit, and you've got a great snack."

Q: What can I do to reduce high blood pressure?

"If your blood pressure is a concern, you should see a doctor and have a checkup, but there are things to do that help control it. Reducing sodium and caffeine intake, increasing fiber consumption and incorporating stress-reducing activities into the day can help lower blood pressure."

Q: What's the biggest barrier to good nutrition in this area?

"We are definitely moving in the right direction to make proper nutrition education more easily accessible to all. Knowledge really is power when it comes to eating properly and taking care of our bodies. We all deserve to be healthy. We make many choices each day that affect our health - try and make most of them healthful choices. You can start today with where you are at. To learn more, I am offering free, monthly wellness classes at HIMG. Dates and topics are listed in the newspaper in advance. You can also schedule an appointment with me at HIMG. There is also general nutrition information on my website at www.SimplyWellman.com."

Clyde Beal seeks out interesting stories from folks around the Tri-State. Email archie350@frontier.com.

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