Interview with Nutritionist Mary Hartley from

I had the opportunity to ask Nutritionist Mary Hartley, RD, MPH – the Director of Nutrition at – some questions about calories and nutrition. Some of my readers helped me come up with questions, and she was kind enough to answer all of them for us!

Do you think that restaurants will start adding lower calorie options to the menu, or cutting portion sizes in half, now that they will be required to include calorie counts on their menus? Because I, for one, would love to see reasonable portion sizes available at reasonable prices when I dine out. Going out to eat shouldn’t automatically mean I’m in for a 1,000+ calorie meal.

Restaurants will compete to offer the best low calorie foods. Cooking methods and ingredients will change, and portions will be smaller, but the price won’t change – or perhaps it will increase! Researchers from the Stanford Graduate School of Business found that calorie-posting in New York City in 2008 led to a 6% reduction in calories per transaction, based on transaction data provided by Starbucks. They concluded that calorie posting leads consumers to buy fewer food items and to switch to lower calorie foods. Restaurants will want to win back those customers.

I hate veggies, especially those that are cooked. How can I eat more? What are some alternative foods people can eat to get the nutrients they’re not getting in vegetables?

First, you have to STOP saying that you hate vegetables, because it is a self-fulfilling statement. And then, if you hate cooked vegetables, just eat raw veggies! Dip them in low-fat salad dressing or a yogurt dip. Learn how to make a killer salad with a good home made dressing. Here’s a recipe for Jam Jar Dressing that was contributed by Jamie Oliver.

And then, you don’t have to like every vegetable – just find five to like. Baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, pepper strips, cucumber spears, celery sticks, asparagus stalks, and the list goes on. Try veggies first from the Farmers Market, because local, fresh, seasonable vegetables are the best, and the farmer will also give you a taste (so you won’t have to buy a whole pack.) Vegetables provide vitamins B1, A, C, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, iron, and other nutrients, as well as carbohydrates, fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals – phew! However, fruit, grain, and “meat alternatives” (dried beans, nuts seeds, and eggs) offer many of the same nutrients, and so eat those foods to make up for a veggie deficit. Remember to sneak fruit and veggies into foods whenever you get the chance: berries with cereal, lettuce and tomato on a sandwich, cut-up fruit on the side. And don’t forget vegetable juice.

What foods do you recommend for nursing mothers?

Nursing mothers need a lot of fluid and calcium, and so milk is usually recommended; however, it’s fine to meet fluid requirement with other beverages and calcium with a supplement. They need more protein and zinc and so they should eat eggs, lean red meat and fish, and whole grains, and they need fiber and unsaturated oils – really, they need a balanced, wholesome diet. They must avoid sizable amounts of alcohol because it passes to the baby and they should scrub produce and, ideally, eat organic food, because chemicals do get into us. Calorie requirements increase by 500 a day for lactation, although women report individual variation in their hunger levels and ability to retain or shed weight. Lactating mothers must also be aware of foods that make the baby gassy and eliminate those for a while.

What are the best free (oh okay, or paid) nutrition resources on or offline?

There is Calorie Count and some of our competitors. We believe that reliable dieting help should be FREE to the user. Support from the online community is invaluable, and then we provide tools, diet analysis, and information that is state of the art. I’ve been an RD for 35 years, and this is the best thing I’ve even seen. And then, for information about planning a healthy diet, go to, the nutrition website of the US government. I also see the people find Web sites that address their particular concerns at a point in time. Other than that, I believe in getting off the Internet and putting ideas into action at the community level: enroll in sports, shop at the Farmers Market, take public transportation, entertain at home with healthy food, support school lunch and vending machine reform, etc. For off-line, paid sources of help with diet and health issues, I recommend paying for a visit with a registered dietitian to get a personalized plan and advice.

For those of us who have already switched to diet soda, reduced fat cheese, leaner cuts of meat, etc. – what are some other “small changes” we can make to feed a picky family healthier meals?

Everyone in the family should learn to become a great cook and take responsibility for choosing meals and getting them on the table. Subscribe to healthy cooking magazines, like Cooking Light, Eating Well, etc. and tell everyone to pick out one dish that they will make with you. (Mom gets to censor for suitability.) You buy the food, cook and serve together, and then the family eats the recipe and decides whether to make it again. If yes, add the recipe to the family cookbook and cook it again within 3 weeks (especially if the ingredients go on sale – smart shopper.)

Do you have any suggestions for feeding kids with Asperger Syndrome who not only insist on eating their chicken in nugget form, but specifically nuggets from McDonald’s or Wendy’s? How can we encourage ultra-picky children on the autism spectrum to eat better foods? Or where else to get their nutrients?

Studies show that children with autism eat less variety of foods than typically developing children. They refuse food based on texture, color, smell and temperature of the food; e.g., children restrict a type of food to a specific brand. Children’s food selectivity is related to family preference; they eat fewer items when the family eats less. Treatment takes the form of behavioral interventions and sensory strategies. The treatment team includes a behavioral psychologist, occupational therapist and a registered dietitian, especially if malnutrition sets in. The parent’s role is to demonstrate structure and modeling, and to provide the right food while keeping competitive foods from the home. Parents should take their cues from the behavioral psychologist.

One last question: What is your guilty pleasure food, the one you’ll eat despite knowing how bad it is for you?

My personal guilty pleasure (but I don’t feel guilty!) is coffee with cream and sugar. I come from Southeastern New England – Dunkin’ Donuts coffee country – and that’s how they drink it. I rarely eat dessert, processed food, soda, candy, red meat, any meats, etc., but I love my coffee. I just have less than I’d have if I didn’t keep myself in check.

I’d like to thank Mary Hartley for taking the time to answer our questions. If you’re interested, Calorie Count is a free iPhone app to help you make the best nutritional choices for you and your family.

Disclosure: No compensation exchanged hands for this post.

Christina Gleason (975 Posts)

That’s me: Christina Gleason. I’m a professional copywriter, editor, and blogger. My company is called Phenomenal Content. (Hire me!) I'm a multiply disabled autistic woman doing my best in this world built for abled people. I’m a geek for grammar, fantasy, and select types of gaming, including Twitch Sings and Plants vs Zombies 2. I hate vegetables. I have an intense phone phobia, so I’ll happily conduct business over email or IM instead.


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