August 6, 2007

Celebrity Diet Secrets: Christie Brinkley

Anytime Hollywood gossip comes to a standstill in the dead of summer, you can always count on a feature story on celebrity beach bodies and "diet secrets."

In Christie Brinkely's case, vegetarianism is attributed to her model figure.

I couldn't think of a more vague and simultaneously shallow statement. It would be akin to saying that "milk" and "juice" are healthy beverages.

In the same way that juice can range from fresh-squeezed orange juice to watermelon Kool Aid, vegetarian diets can also run the gamut from healthy to horrid.

Vegetarianism in and of itself is not healthier than "omnivore"-ism. While it is true that a well-balanced vegetarian diet often results in higher fiber and phytonutrient intake (as well as a higher consumption of whole grains and legumes), not all vegetarian diets are well-balanced.

Consider the following two fictional vegetarian subjects.

Claire's Vegetarian Day:


2 Pop Tarts


1 soy burger (in a bun)
A small side of French fries
A can of Coke


1 small bag of Doritos

DINNER (at a restaurant)

Cheese quesadilla (5 ounces)
Refried beans (1 cup)

This meat-free day adds up to:

2,166 calories
23 grams of saturated fat

19 grams of fiber (30% below her needs)

3,603 milligrams of sodium (150% of the recommended maximum).

This day is also completely devoid of fruits and vegetables (sorry, French fries don't count).

Adam's vegetarian day:


1 slice whole wheat toast
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 glass skim milk
1 banana



1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cups brown rice
1/4 cup peppers
1/2 cup broccoli
1/4 cup chickpeas
1/4 cup kidney beans


1 Lara Bar


1.5 cups whole wheat pasta
1/2 cup marinara sauce
4 soy meatballs (frozen)

This day comes out to:

1,690 calories
5 grams of saturated fat

1,650 milligrams of sodium

34.5 grams of fiber

Simply cutting out meat products does not automatically make one a healthy eater.

Although well-balanced vegetarian diets tend to include more fruits and vegetables than those of meat eaters, vegetarians are especially at risk for overdoing sodium.

Many meat alternatives are in the frozen section of the supermarket and can contain as much as 35% of one's daily sodium needs in one serving.

A breaded mock-chicken patty certainly has less saturated fat than an animal one, but it should not be seen as a health food simply because it is made with soy.

If you are thinking of making the switch to vegetarianism, be sure to talk with a registered dietitian to ensure the change is beneficial, rather than a junky diet under a different name.

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