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Health & Wellness

Karen & Vanessa on Nutrition

What You Need to Know: 

​Our UK Health & Wellness nutrition experts are registered dietitians, Karen Bryla McNees and Vanessa Oliver, and they regularly share their knowledge and insights with the UK community through articles in Healthy You, programs, events and one-on-one consults. UK employees can schedule a free nutrition consult to learn more about how to meet individual health goals related to nutrition. Learn more about nutrition consults »


Karen Bryla McNees, Ed.D., R.D.
 UK Wellness Dietitian
 Karen's bio


Vanessa Oliver, M.S., R.D., L.D.
 UK Wellness Dietitian
 Vanessa's Bio


Insights by Topic

Dietary Recommendations

Pregnancy & Nutrition


Weight Loss

Ask the Expert: Food Guide Pyramid replaced by MyPlate

by UK Health & Wellness Specialist Vanessa Oliver, M.S., R.D., L.D.

Q: I heard that the Food Guide Pyramid has been replaced by MyPlate. Can you tell me what it is and how I should use it?

A: In June of 2011, the US Department of Agriculture unveiled a new nutrition guide designed to help Americans eat a more healthful diet. It was designed to replace the MyPyramid tool, which was criticized for being overly confusing. 

What are the main messages you should take away from MyPlate? Read more »

Ask the Expert: Dieting While Breasfeeding?

by UK Health & Wellness Dietitian Karen Bryla McNees, Ed.D., R.D.

Q: I am breastfeeding, but want to lose weight. Can I diet while breastfeeding?
A: Congratulations on your decision to breastfeed! Yes, it is possible to safely lose weight while also providing enough breast milk for your little one. Here are some basic principles to get you started:

  • It's best to wait about two months after your baby is born to begin making conscious efforts to lose weight. This gives your body enough time to successfully establish a healthy milk supply that is less likely to be adversely affected if your caloric intake is restricted. Breastfeeding your baby burns 200-500 calories per day (above what you needed to maintain your pre-pregnancy weight) -- so keep in mind that even without a weight loss program you are burning extra calories. Read more »

Ask the Expert: Is High Fructose Corn Syrup the Same as Sugar?

by UK Health & Wellness Dietitian Karen Bryla McNees, Ed.D., R.D.

Q: For years, I've heard that high fructose corn syrup is bad. Now I'm seeing commercials that say it's processed by the body just like table sugar. What is the truth?

A: High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a calorie-providing sweetner used to sweeten foods and beverages, particularly processed and store-bought foods. HFCS is a desirably food ingredient for food manufacturers because it is equally as sweet as table sugar, blends well with other foods, helps foods to maintain a longer shelf life and is less expensive (due to government subsidies on corn) than other sweetners. Read more »

Ask the Expert: Big Loser vs. Little Loser

by UK Health & Wellness Dietitian Karen Bryla McNees, Ed.D., R.D.

Q: I am determined to lose weight this year by eating more healthy foods and limiting my calorie intake. I also workout for at least 30 minutes every day. I'm discouraged that I'm only losing about one pound a week. Is that normal? I see people on television losing huge amounts every week. Am I doing something wrong? 

A: Congratulations on your determination to pursue a healthier lifestyle! It sounds like you have a sensible approach to weight loss -- eat more healthfully, cut back on calories, and make time for exercise! With the success of show s such as "The Biggest Loser," it is understandable that people trying to lose weight are discouraged w hen they see contestants losing those big numbers every w eek. This is the exception, not the rule! Read more »

Ask the Expert: Daily Sugar Intake

by UK Health & Wellness Dietitian Karen Bryla McNees, Ed.D., R.D.

Q: I recently read that the American Heart Association recommends cutting sugar intake dramatically - no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily for women, and for men no more than 9 teaspoons. What does a teaspoon of sugar equal in calories or grams? What are some easy ways to cut back?
While not directly related to heart disease, added sugars do contribute to being over weight and obesity. Foods w ith added sugars tend to be high in calories and low in nutrients and often replace more nutrient rich foods (drinking soda instead of milk). Six teaspoons of sugar equals 100 calories and 25 grams (equal to ½ cup of ice cream) w hile 9 teaspoons equals 150 calories and 38 grams (equal to one can of soda). To put this in perspective, consider that the average American consumes 22 teaspoons, or 355 calories, of added sugars per day. Read more »

Ask the Expert: Smart Choices?

by UK Health & Wellness Dietitian Karen Bryla McNees, Ed.D., R.D.

Q: I’m seeing the Smart Choices label on more and more packaged foods these days. What does that label mean and am I really making a smart choice by choosing those foods that carry it?

A: The Smart Choices Program is a universal nutritional ranking system designed to help consumers identify the healthiest foods with a logo that appears on the front of food packaging. It is the first industry-wide front-of-packaging initiative to identify healthy food choices. Specific qualifying criteria are used across 19 product categories and attention is paid to both nutrients that should be limited, such as sugar, sodium, and saturated fat, as well as nutrients that should be encouraged, such as fiber and calcium. Read more »