Eating Healthy the Simplified Way

Kirtland's registered dietician, Kirsten David. (Photo by Argen Duncan)

Kirtland's registered dietician, Kirsten David. (Photo by Argen Duncan)

March is National Nutrition Month and a great time to start getting onto a healthy eating pattern.  A healthy eating pattern is defined as consuming all foods that fit together like a puzzle to meet nutritional needs without exceeding limits such as those for saturated fats, added sugars, sodium and total calories.  It doesn’t have to be as complicated as it is sometimes thought out to be like in some popular fad diets.  Good nutrition is simple and overcomplicating things can lead to stress and potential for failure. There are some easy key principles to follow a healthy eating pattern.

Firstly, consume nutrient dense foods.  Nutrient dense foods are foods that contain essential vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber and other substances with positive health effects.  So avoid eating processed foods that have minimal nutritional value.  For example, fresh fruits and vegetables are nutrient dense foods.  A processed food would be fruit juice, fruit snacks and veggie chips.  These are foods that through processing lose nutritional value in vitamins/minerals and fiber.  The fewer ingredients in a food, the better it is for your health!

Follow the healthy eating plate which consists of a mixture of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins.  If you can put together a meal with all of these basic components, chances are it will be a healthy satisfying meal.  Meals that contain every component of the healthy eating plate are higher in fiber and nutrients, which make us feel fuller longer and give us more energy to get through our daily activities. When we consume meals that are missing one of these components, we are eliminating an entire food group and that can lead to nutrient deficiencies.     

Make time for healthy eating.  Often we don’t place our health first as many other parts of our lives seem to take priority.  However, every single decision we make now with our food choices will affect your health down the road.  So make it a priority and find time to set aside for meal planning and prepping for your busy week ahead.  This will help eliminate the chances of buying fast food or other convenience processed food.  And meal planning and prepping can be simple!  For example, frozen vegetables can be just as healthy as fresh and the only take a few minutes to heat up in the microwave.  Add those with some pre-cooked chicken and microwaveable brown rice or quinoa and you’ve got yourself a healthy meal that took no time at all!  Keep healthy snacks on hand in your office and at home to also prevent last minute convenience food grabs.

When eating out at restaurants, make better choices.  You hear this all the time but how often do you actually do it?  Think about what your goals are with your eating habits and put them to practice next time you go out to your favorite restaurant. Are you actually choosing the side salad over the fries?  The water over the soda?  And the chicken sandwich over the beef? Being able to make better choices at restaurants can be the ultimate test on how committed you are to your healthy eating pattern. Most restaurants now will offer their nutrition facts either on their website or menu.  Check this ahead of time and make your healthy choice before you arrive at the restaurant to avoid temptation when you arrive.  A good resource for this is a website called “Healthy Dining Finder” where you can type in your zip code and it has all of the healthy choices at certain restaurants around you. 

So make it simple, eat good nutrient dense foods, and find a healthy eating pattern that is right for your lifestyle that you can continue to follow for a lifetime!  Don’t over-complicate things and seek help from a registered dietitian when you need it.  For more information, contact Ms. Kirsten David/Health Promotion Flight at 846-1483.

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