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Blake dietician warns against fad diets that tout miracles

MANATEE -- Fad diets drive Pat Miller-Garner crazy.

They don't work over the long-haul and can do more harm than good, says the straight-shooting Miller-Garner, a registered dietician, licensed dietician nutritionist and Florida certified diabetes educator at Bradenton's Blake Medical Center.

"No one goes on a caveman diet for the rest of their lives," Miller-Garner said last week, referring to the Paleo diet, a current rage, which suggests proponents should eat only things a cavemen could find by hunting and gathering, which includes meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds, but eliminates grains, cereals, dairy products, processed foods and refined sugar.

"The caveman's average life was 35 years," added Miller-Garner. "This diet is insane although it will work. Any diet will work for awhile. But there is nothing proven that the Paleo has long-term health benefits."

Miller-Garner doesn't go along with any diet that cuts out certain food groups, like dairy, which she thinks is important.

"I can go along with any whacky diet, that is what I call them, as long as you balance foods and don't eliminate a food group," Miller-Garner added.

Miller-Garner, who has worked at Blake for 37 years, recalls a woman who was on a popular eight-week cholesterol cure which called for a lot of bran muffins.

"I think she probably thought if three muffins were good, than five were better," Miller-Garner said. "We had to cut muffins out of her intestines because they blocked them off."

Miller-Garner also cringes when someone mentions eating massive amounts of protein, such as what is suggested by the Atkins' diet.

""You have to look at it in perspective," Miller-Garner said of a high-protein diet. "Yes, you could lose weight, but in the long haul you could be deteriorating your blood vessels."

By the book

Through her own book, "The Trim Team Manual," which is available to Blake patients, Miller-Garner has gained a reputation in Manatee County for her diet gospel and her holistic approach toward it," said Lindsey Peterson, a fellow registered clinical dietician at Blake.

"Pat is a CoverGirl for dieting," Peterson said. "She's a living example. She lives a good diet."

At 63, Miller-Garner carries just 130 pounds on her 5 foot 6 frame. For her, 1,800 calories a day is perfect to satisfy her and keep her in a size six.

"I eat anything but liver," Miller-Garner said. "I try to get fiber from fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I try to save 200 calories before I go to bed at night for high fiber cereal and skim milk or fat free yogurt or fruit. I am not saying that chocolate cake is evil. But I try to encourage that healthy foods should be what we eat in volume."

Exercise is important

Due to her diet, she still has energy to go ballroom dancing after a day trying to change the eating habits of people with diabetes.

Miller-Garner teaches that part of dieting is dancing, or walking the mall, gardening, riding a bike or just moving the arms and legs.

"I have battled weight, too," Miller-Garner said. "I love to eat. It is a myth that some people can eat whatever they want forever. It catches up. I worked with a girl who weighed 100 pounds and wanted to gain weight years ago. Now, at age 55, she wants to lose weight. Gaining weight is part of aging and unless you make a conscious effort to make healthy choices as you age, you will gain weight."

And, that extra weight can cause high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disease.

Besides activity, to keep trim or get trim, people must become aware of everything they eat, Miller-Garner said.

One of the secrets of a successful diet is to write down everything one eats in a daily journal, Miller-Garner said.

"The basis of healthy eating is vegetables, fruits, whole

grains and low fat dairy," Miller-Garner said. "If I lay a foundation of eating vegetables and fruit, then I will be less likely to grab that donut. We must remember that food is relatively cheap and has become our entertainment and social activity."

During her day, Miller-Garner is apt to have three ounces of salmon or grilled chicken without the skin.

"I may have a cup of raisin bran cereal with skim milk," Miller-Garner said. "People say don't drink milk but I have found skim milk seems to benefit people with weight loss. I usually have fresh fruit, like a pear, and I always wash it. I usually eat an egg every day."

Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables

The superstar foods of Miller-Garner's diet plan for success are veggies.

She suggests that half of a person's daily food intake, at least five or more daily servings, should be a half to one cup of non-starchy vegetables such as carrots, peppers, summer squash, eggplant, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, onions, asparagus, collards, cabbage, lettuce, celery, tomatoes, green beans and kale. Steaming excites the nutrients in many of these vegetables, giving the human body a power boost, Miller-Garner said.

Starches and proteins make up the rest of the Trim daily diet.

For starches, Miller-Garner suggests no more than seven servings a day, which may include a small piece of fruit, a cup of skim milk, a slice of whole grain bread, an ounce of whole grain cereal, a half cup of pasta or brown rice or a small sweet or baked potato with butter flakes.

For proteins, three servings are suggested daily including one to three ounces of tofu, fish, skinless chicken, trimmed lean meat, one egg or a half cup of beans, which Miller-Garner says are wonderful.

Sparkling water, coffee, tea, diet soda dill pickles and mustard are all OK in moderation, Miller-Garner said.

Both Blake Medical Center and Manatee Memorial Hospital offer programs for weight loss and nutrition education.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.

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