Individual People Need Individual Diets

Contigo Austin owner Ben Edgerton said this fresh sausage dish can be made gluten-free by eliminating the bread.

Photo Credit: Jared Wynne

There is no single diet for weight loss, according to Victoria Jarzabkowski, a registered dietitian and the nutrition program coordinator at UT’s Fitness Institute of Texas. Jarzabkowski, who works with UT faculty, staff and students on a daily basis, conducts educational classes and is also responsible for fitness testing, calorie counting, nutrition composition and monitoring weight loss.

 “People want a magic potion that there is one diet out there that they can ascribe to,” Jarzabkowski said. “The truth is that there are a lot of different things that work, depending on your goals, depending on your current state of health.”

Before recommending dietary changes, Jarzabkowski takes current diet intake, weight, height, allergies, medications and goals into account. Diet recommendations follow through after she knows for sure what the individual’s specific goals are.
“What they like and dislike is important, too,” Jarzabkowski said. “If you tell someone to follow a gluten-free diet and they really love wheat bread, you are setting them up to fail.”

What Jarzabkowski advises students to do is to increase their intake of whole, unpackaged, unprocessed foods.

“We also recommend that they keep a food log or a food journal,” Jarzabkowski said. “That can help with counting calories, protein intake, fiber intake and all the components that make up a healthy diet. Research shows that people who food log, even if they are not calculating the exact amount of nutrients, have a better diet and are more successful with weight loss.”

Keeping a food journal makes one mindful of what one is eating, resulting in healthier food choices. To keep track of students’ diets and calorie intake, the Fitness Institute also uses a calorie-counting web app called MyFitnessPal that allows both dietitian and student to log in and makes it more convenient for the dietitian to monitor food intake. 

“It gives us all the information we are looking for,” Jarzabkowski said. “How many calories they are consuming, proteins, fiber. That’s a really helpful way to monitor to see if they are reaching their goals. Sometimes writing it down is also helpful. We also send emails to our clients telling them what they need to work on. We give them suggestions to improve, and we also commend them when they reach their target.”

Local restaurants and food trucks like Contigo Austin, Foreign & Domestic and Picnik Austin offer up special dishes for people on the paleo, gluten-free, organic and vegan diets. Picnik Austin is a food truck devoted to paleo, grain-free, gluten-free and organic foods.

The paleo diet, also called the Paleolithic diet, motivates people to eat like the early cavemen did. The diet consists of fish, vegetables, fungi, fruits, grass-fed meats and eggs, and excludes grains, dairy, processed oils, refined sugar and legumes. Gluten-free diets exclude gluten, a protein mainly found in grains such as barley, rye, wheat and triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye. Owner of Contigo Austin Ben Edgerton said gluten-free dishes include the dewberry chicken, chicken thigh, sausage without the baguette and charcuterie items without the bread. 

Sometimes Jarzabkowski and her team give students and faculty the practical advice of ordering smartly at restaurants, only when cooking becomes difficult or when there is no time to shop for groceries, although this is not the best option when it comes to eating right. 

“Eat at GreenGos or substitute candy with granola bar,” Jarzabkowski said. “If you have to eat at Chick-fil-A, then get a grilled chicken salad.”