There’s more to a diet than frequency of meals


DEAR DR. ROACH: I have always heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I never eat breakfast. Most times I eat just once a day, at dinnertime — and no, I don’t pig out then, either. I have boneless, skinless chicken breast or pork chops baked or on the grill, with a boxed pasta side dish, and I feel just fine and have lost weight. I call it the once-a-day diet. If this works, and I can eat just once a day, then I think it’s fine and easy to do once you get used to it. — R.G.

ANSWER: While I’m glad this diet has helped you lose weight, my experience is that many people who eat only once daily have problems with weight gain, probably because they are so hungry that they consume more calories than they need. Breakfasts help many people with energy during the day and keep them from getting so hungry that they make poor choices. However, eating large meals less frequently is a successful strategy for some people.

However, I can’t agree with your overall food choices. You haven’t mentioned any fruits or vegetables, whole grains, legumes or nuts, and these are the basis for a healthy diet, in my opinion. Your diet is deficient in many micronutrients (such as vitamin C and calcium), so I hope you just neglected to mention these and actually are consuming some. A diet that helps a person lose weight is great, but a diet for optimizing overall health is different from what you are reporting. A nutritionist or your doctor can provide more information.

DEAR DR. ROACH: What is the deal with monoglycerides and diglycerides? I’ve read that these ingredients are just trans fats in disguise, and that they are not considered as fats by the Food and Drug Administration and so are not included in the fat calorie count. Should I avoid products with these ingredients because of concerns about cholesterol levels? It’s difficult to find breads or other pastry products without one or both of these listed in the ingredients. — G.W.S.

ANSWER: Mono- and diglycerides are very much like fats, which are chemically triglycerides. They all have a glycerine “backbone” to which one, two or three long chains of fatty acids are attached. Mono- and diglycerides are used in many products as emulsifiers, which help oil and water stay together.

The fatty acids themselves can be saturated (bonded with hydrogen) in “cis-“ or in “trans-“ — a technical term for which side of the bond the hydrogen goes on — it’s a chemical difference that looks hardly noticeable but makes a big difference in the way the fat affects your body. Trans-saturated fatty acids (“trans fats” for short) increase the levels of LDL cholesterol (the unhealthy kind) and decrease HDL cholesterol (the good kind) in the blood, and significantly increase the risk of developing blockages in the arteries, even when taken in small amounts (2 grams a day is a risk). Foods that contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat can be labelled as having “0 grams of trans fats,” which makes avoiding them difficult. You have to carefully read ingredient labels.

The dose makes the poison: I recommend minimizing mono- and diglycerides, although it is very difficult, as you say, to avoid them completely if you buy commercial breads and pastries (and many other products, too). You can minimize your consumption by cooking using ingredients you can trust, buying products without them when you can and reducing processed foods overall. If you do that, a small amount of mono- and diglycerides are unlikely to cause harm.