We asked Stephanie Jacobson to keep a food diary so that dietitian Ruth Frechman could get a better sense of her eating habits. Frechman's one-word reaction to the seven-day report: "Yikes."
A typical weekday starts with a McDonald's vanilla latte, then fast food for lunch — one day, that was two crunchy beef tacos, two soft chicken tacos and a Pepsi at Taco Bell. Dinner that day was spaghetti with meat sauce, courtesy of her roommate, followed by a low-fat banana popsicle.
On a weekend, brunch was a breakfast quesadilla and French fries, washed down with an iced vanilla latte. She snacked later on 10 baby carrots and about 15 Triscuit crackers. For dinner, she had a can of Campbell's vegetable soup.
Calorie-wise, Jacobson is in the ballpark for her height, weight and activity level, averaging about 1,500 to 2,000 calories per day. But when Frechman charts her foods, two things are missing almost every day: adequate amounts of fruit and vegetables. Usually, the only vegetables she eats are bagged iceberg lettuce (poor in nutrients), the occasional bundle of broccolini for dinner (good, but not a balanced meal) and whatever vegetables are stuffed inside a fried egg roll. That's nowhere near enough.
"At least two-thirds of meals should be plant-based," Frechman says. For dinner, that could be a small grilled chicken breast plus servings of carrots, broccoli and brown rice. Additional tips: Half of all grains should be whole grains that don't have the germ and bran stripped away, giving them more nutrients and fiber. And 30% of daily calories should come from healthful fats, with fried foods saved for special occasions.