Dietitian takes crusade to TV She also teaches nutrition classes ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY HEALTH

April 06, 1993|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

So, what's Mary Gianforte, a registered dietitian from Severn, doing in a television studio instead of planning meals in a hospital kitchen?

She's taking her good-nutrition, anti-fat message where she thinks it will have the greatest effect.

"The problem is that for most people, their main source of information is TV. And they're not always getting accurate information," the 33-year-old mother of one said.

The best way to counter all that misinformation from the manufacturers of margarine, snack foods and other products high in fat is to get right on television with them, she figured.

Thursday, she and another registered dietitian from St. Agnes Hospital waited patiently in a small room at WBFF-Fox 45 for their turn before the cameras.

St. Agnes, one of two hospitals where Ms. Gianforte teaches nutrition classes, was shooting three in a series of 26 segments for a Sunday morning television show on health-related topics. Ms. Gianforte's segment will air Sunday at 10:30 a.m.

That won't be the only time she appears on television, however. Ms. Gianforte also is host of the "Eating Smart" segment on Channel 2's morning show every other Monday, dispensing her anti-fat message.

Ms. Gianforte has not always been a crusader for low-fat diets. Five years ago, she was a full-time dietitian at St. Joseph Hospital in Towson, counseling cardiac patients until she decided "this is crazy."

"I thought, 'I'm only working with people once they've had heart attacks. I should be helping them make changes before it comes to that,' " she said.

She became a diet and nutrition consultant working through the North Arundel Hospital Professional Center in Glen Burnie and other institutions.

She worked with clients referred from their doctors and taught a few classes at first.

Now, she has expanded her projects to include 11 classes in various locations around the Beltway, including hospitals and private businesses.

In addition to her television segments, she teaches "Pounds Away" at St. Agnes, "Low Fat Living and Loving It" at North Arundel Hospital and a wellness program for Baltimore County employees. She runs weight-loss contests and seminars at dozens of local businesses, including Westinghouse and W. R. Grace.

While Ms. Gianforte and her colleague were waiting for the taping to begin Thursday, the conversation naturally turned to healthful food.

Doris McMillon, the show's host, bragged about her "great recipe" for a healthy-sounding chicken dinner. But Ms. Gianforte was unimpressed. It would be better, she said, if the four dabs of margarine were replaced with a butter substitute.

Four dabs for an entire recipe is too much?

"Look, it's got 10 grams of fat. You don't need it," said Ms. Gianforte, who seems to know the fat count in every food.

She says she does not expect people to give up the foods they love, just to cut back on the fattening ingredients or reduce the portions. Nor does she say people should give up all convenience and fast foods.

"You just have to know which convenience foods are OK and which aren't," she said.

Anything grilled, baked or broiled is going to be better than anything fried or sauteed. And foods with a lot of oil or mayonnaise should be avoided.

And you don't have to shop health food stores, she said. Everything you need is at your local supermarket.

To prove that, Ms. Gianforte takes her diet classes on field trips to local markets, where they review products and learn to compare labels for fat and caloric content.

"I think people are tired of fad diets," she said. "They want to take weight off sensibly and keep it off. You know, 90 percent of the people who take weight off quickly put it right back on.

"Forget diets," she advised. "They just don't work."

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