Paulette Lambert, L.D. CDE, leads the nutrition programs at The California Health & Longevity Institute, where her classroom is a spacious demonstration Wellness Kitchen. There, guests and program participants have the ability to learn about ways to eat healthier and to make changes in the way they prepare food in their own homes. Ms. Lambert brings more than 30 years of experience to this role, with the last 27 spent in a private practice. Her experience is in clinical nutrition, specializing in development of dietary plans that fit an individual’s lifestyle and medical needs. She has implemented various wellness programs and has been involved in development of healthy lunch programs for schools.
The California Health & Longevity Institute gathers certified experts in medicine, nutrition, fitness, and life balance, enhanced by the most advanced medical technology available. Comprehensive fitness facilities, spa treatments, and accommodations at Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village are also available under one roof.
How did you decide to embark on a career in nutrition?
I was a political science major in the mid ’70s, hoping to be a teacher. At that time, however, they were predicting few teaching jobs available, so I changed my major in my junior year of college. This was right in the middle of the hippie era, when organic foods were becoming more popular. Since I always loved cooking and have always been a real foodie, I considered dropping out of college and going to culinary school. I decided it would be in my best interest to finish college, since I had already completed three years, so I looked for a major that would involve food and teaching. Many told me that nutrition was just a fad at the time; it turned to be a great fad! Thirty years later science is continually finding that good nutrition is a major cornerstone to good health.
Give an insider’s look at the importance of nutrition for overall health.
Scientific evidence has long linked good nutrition to overall health and longevity. When all essential nutrients are provided to the body, it can carry out its normal functions. Good nutrition provides the body with energy; it’s the fuel that keeps your engine running. The better the fuel, the more efficient the engine runs. Optimal nutrition provides the raw materials for growth and repair, functions that are needed throughout a lifetime. Good nutrition provides the body with compounds that act like a catalyst, making certain reactions occur, such as breaking down food into usable energy or muscles contract. Other compounds such as minerals become structural components of the body, such as calcium in the bones. Antioxidants ward off disease and protect the body from pollutants in the environment. The role of good nutrition is complex and is of utmost important in maintaining good health and longevity.
Is a healthy diet only for the wealthy?
Absolutely not! For most of us, protecting our health is a good investment. Why spend money on health care that would not be needed if we had better nutrition? Studies have shown that a less rich diet that consists of fewer processed foods, smaller amounts, less sugar, and less fat can actually be healthier. Many parts of the world that are not wealthy have better diets than the average American! Beans, lentils, simple whole grains, with only small amounts of more expensive animal protein, are actually better for you. If you add a large amount of fruit and vegetables that are seasonal, it would be the ideal for most everyone, and you can eat this way very cheaply!
Can you provide tips for healthy nutrition for those on tight budget?
First, use some sources of plant proteins; they are not only less expensive, but also better for you. Try beans, lentils, nut butter, seeds and nuts, and soy products.
Buy fresh produce seasonally. This is much less expensive than shopping for out-of-season produce that has been shipped from around the world, and it’s more nutritious as well (not to mention it reduces the carbon footprint). Buy inexpensive frozen fruit and vegetables when what you want is out of season.
Buy store brands. Ninety-five percent of the time they are equal in quality and can save you a lot of money in a year!
Spend money on food that has the highest nutritional benefit. If money is tight, limit the non-nutrient foods to one or two items per week. Americans spend a huge amount of money on processed foods with little or no nutritious value.
What does it mean to have a “balanced life”?
To me a balanced life is living a complete, full life with all areas working in conjunction with each other. It means not letting one part dominate totally to the point that other important aspects, such as health and family, suffer. It means riding the ups and downs and staying as centered as possible. I like to think it of it as a wonderful symphony full of ups and downs, moving slowly and quickly, changing all the time, but all working together.
What are the top five nutrient myths that you would like to debunk?
Coffee is bad for you. New studies show that two cups of coffee per day decrease risk factors for diabetes by 40 percent because of the high antioxidant level. If you have high blood pressure or are sensitive to caffeine, drink decaf.
That food advertised as “natural” is better for you. This claim is one of the most misleading ones used in marketing at this time. Natural does not mean good for you. Lard is natural, and so is sugar, so go figure!
Eating large amounts of animal protein is good for you. Most Americans eat too much protein, and that contributes to obesity, heart disease, and cancer. The average man needs only 8 to 10 ounces per day; the average women, only 6 to 8 ounces. Most of us eat that in only one meal. The body cannot use excessive protein, so it is turned into energy, and if it is not expended, it is stored as body fat. All animal proteins contain some saturated fat. If a high level of increased saturated fat is in the diet, it can lead to heart disease.
That frozen fruit and vegetables are less nutritious than fresh. They are not! In fact, if the fresh ones are not in season, frozen fruits and vegetables are actually better for you. Many of the produce sold in our markets that is out of season was picked unripe before the full nutrient content could be developed, and then shipped thousands of miles to the stores.
Salads are always the best choice when dining out if you are trying to reduce your weight. Most entrée salads in restaurants are higher in calories than a burger and fries because of the large amount of salad dressing. The average large entrée salad has 500 to 600 calories of dressing, equivalent to 10 teaspoons of butter! Order the dressing on the side and limit it to 2 tablespoons for a healthier, lower calorie entrée.
How important are spas in a healthy lifestyle?
Spas help individuals focus on a healthier lifestyle. They incorporate stress management, fitness, and good nutrition. They can provide that supportive environment that is needed to focus on change. Studies have shown that those who go to spas on a regular basis are more aware of their bodies and are more actively engaged in taking care of themselves.