Table Talk: Estefania Beltrami

Estefania Beltrami is a Licensed Nutritionist and social media influencer from Argentina. During her five-year journey to get her degree, she decided to start an Instagram account to share her recipes, ideas and suggestions on how to lead a balanced life. What first started as a mere hobby resulted in a community of 500K interactive people who share ideals, tips and recipes on a daily basis (@Nutricion.Salud.Arg).

We sat down with Estefania to learn a little more about her nutritional ideals:

What would you identify as your main values when designing a nutritional program for a client?

I do not like to create a rigid nutritional plan or "diet" because I do not feel that is sustainable long-term. I treat patients in an all-encompassing manner, taking into account physical, social and mental aspects. I ask them about their current eating patterns and objectives, and from there see how to modify their eating habits to adapt to their goals. The main idea is to educate patients on "how to eat," meaning how to combine different foods, what quantity to eat during each meal, and how often so that they are able to make their own nutritional decisions based on what they normally eat, and slowly start adapting. This way, when they are faced with a social encounter, say a birthday party, or a work event, they know how to set up their own plate, or how to moderate their portions and it does not become a dilemma.

Can you give me a quick breakdown of what "ideal" meals for one day are? Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, Desert? Are we allowed to have desert?

In the past, it was said that more meals are better, but it was recently proven that the ideal breakdown is four full meals: breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. If the average person is eating the correct nutrients in each one of these meals, there is no need for additional snacking in between. If for some reason one of your meals was not "complete," or you are a highly active person and you need to add a snack in between, that is acceptable, depending on the situation. In my opinion, in order to maintain satiety throughout the day and avoid binge eating or wrong nutritional decisions, each meal should ideally have something from each nutritional group.

Here is a breakdown of what a typical day would look like:

Breakfast: Dairy, Carb/Grain, Fruit (Ex. Greek yogurt with 1/4C cereal and 1C strawberries)

Lunch: 1/2 Plate of Veggies, 1/4 Plate Protein, 1/4 Plate Carbohydrates, Healthy fat

Snack: Dairy, Carb/Grain, Fruit (Ex. 1 Slice of Bread, 1 banana, Coffee & Milk)

Dinner: 1/2 Plate of Veggies, 1/4 Plate Protein, 1/4 Plate Carbohydrates, Healthy fat

When it comes to desert, of course it is allowed, in moderation. You can't eat a banana with dulce de leche every day because that may cause a weight increase, but fruit is always a healthy option, as is jello. A healthy desert under 100 calories served as a treat three to four times a week is acceptable.

How would this differ for someone who trains/works out regularly? Can they consume more than the average person? In what form should they consume it?

This is a tricky question because there are a lot of factors that will vary in my response. The diet of an older woman who does Pilates three times a week will be much different from a teenager who plays several hours of rugby a day. One must take into account the extra calories that a person needs based on how much they are exerting. Then they can be incorporated within the four main meals a day. If a patient feels like they are still hungry, one can incorporate additional snacks pre- and post- workout. Pre- would be carb-based and post- would be a simple carb and protein based snack.

I think the entire world is confused on what the correct amount of protein to eat a day is, can you tell us?

There is a recent trend in the fitness world that states that the correct diet is low-carb, high-protein. This is neither sustainable nor correct. The human body needs a lot of energy, and energy comes from a balanced diet. If we look into macronutrient breakdown, 50-60% should be carbohydrates, 15-20% protein and 25-30% fats. This means that the majority of a person's diet should be composed of carbohydrates, yet you see everyone participating in the high-protein craze. If you look at the properties of macronutrients, the primary purpose of carbohydrates is to provide energy, and the main purpose of protein is to regenerate tissue. If carbohydrates are stripped from a diet, then one's energy will drop, and the excess protein will be used by the body to try and supplement that energy. Since this is not the purpose of protein, one will begin to feel fatigued and even dizzy. There is a cap on the amount of protein that your body can process a day, based on each person’s body. It is very important to be selective as to whom you receive nutritional advice from.

In addition, one needs to take into consideration that proteins are processed in the kidneys, and even though there are studies that state that in healthy adults kidney failure is not directly linked to overconsumption of protein, exams that reveal the current processing of state of these organs are very complicated, specific, and expensive. Most people do not know whether or not they have “healthy” kidneys and overexertion through excess protein consumption spike complications that would otherwise remain dormant.

Do you think that protein in the United States is being over-marketed?

I do not live in the U.S. so I cannot speak so much on how it is marketed on-land, at events, etc., but from what I see on social media, I see many so called “fitness gurus” that provide nutritional advice and promote protein powders as a way to generate income. I have known multiple people who have had complications from consuming those products. If you are able to attain a balanced diet, there is no reason that you should need additional supplements. If you have tried through adequate nutrition planning to achieve results and feel like you need additional supplementation, one should check with a licensed nutritionist for advice on the proper way to incorporate those additional nutrients. These “meal replacement” shakes do not provide the same nutrition as a good, clean diet and although marketed as convenient, are not a sustainable form of nutrition.

How many "cheat meals" do you allow your clients to have? Why?

I try to stay away from the term “cheat meal” as much as possible. I do not believe in having such a strict diet that you have to force yourself to wait until the weekend to have one large fattening meal. If the majority of a person’s diet is composed of moderated, nutrient rich, healthy food that follows the four meal plan as outlined above, then there should be more flexibility in one’s diet. I want my clients to feel safe going to a birthday party or event, knowing that they can eat whatever is served (yes, even pizza) in moderation and that they will be okay. People should be able to adapt to different moments and feel comfortable. If you starve yourself the whole week, then your body will eat away at your muscle. If you wait until the weekend to eat one huge, fattening meal, you will not gain that muscle back, you will gain fat. This way you are entering a cycle of muscle loss and fat gain that will not allow you to reach the desired results. If for the most part, you have a healthy diet, you should be able to treat yourself (without binge eating) throughout the week without gaining weight.

Alcohol - that's a tricky subject to touch. What would you say is the maximum consumption one may have a week before it begins to affect your body negatively?

It is well known that alcohol is neither a healthy food, nor does it provide any real nutritional value, so alcohol should be considered an indulgence or “treat” as you may call it. The recommendation for alcohol is very relative. In Argentina, wine is a common part of social interaction, so eliminating it completely may not be a possibility. My recommendation for wine-drinkers is one glass a day during the week, and if you go out on the weekend, a maximum of three glasses is what I would deem “acceptable” as an indulgence. Alcohol is processed first by the body, so if food is consumed at the same time the processing of those foods will be delayed and accumulated in the body and may result in weight gain if prolonged for a long period of time. If you want to eat two/three slices of pizza and have beer to go with it on the weekend, that’s is okay. If you repeat it every day, that’s when it becomes a problem.

Why do you think you have had such great success with your account @Nutricion.Salud.Arg?

I believe that perseverance and hard work has led me to where I am today. I have put a lot of time onto @Nutricion.Salud.Arg and taken into account feedback from my followers. Maintaining an active page and interacting with my followers has helped me determine what does or does not work.

What are your next steps professionally?

I am currently writing a book while I wait for my official title so I can open up my own clinic and start receiving clients. I am also still working on my social media page.

If you had to give people 3 tips on how to maintain a stable nutritional plan, what would they be?

-Moderate the quantity of food and make sure that it is of quality

-When you feel like indulging in something, allow yourself to enjoy it in moderation

-Do not obsess over the scale, calorie counting, etc. because that can be counter productive

For day-to-day tips on nutrition (in Spanish), follow Estefania at @Nutricion.Salud.Arg

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