By Kim Jacobs, Registered Dietitian & Certified Diabetes Educator
When it comes to food and nutrition, there’s so much to share. Nutrition tends to be the front and center when it comes to health, wellness, and disease prevention. As a Registered Dietitian (RD) with many years of experience, I still find it exciting to be able to educate people on how the foods we eat affect our overall health. While each of our bodies might need slightly different interventions, there are a few nutritional words of wisdom I commonly share with my clients.
#1: Balance is key.
Guess what? I don’t just talk about healthy eating during a Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) session. Healthy eating and physical activity are only one piece of the puzzle. Emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and social aspects of health are equally important and must be addressed in order to improve overall well-being. Beyond your physical appearance, can you say you truly feel well? Do you feel alert, energized, nourished, and happy? Do you feel a sense of overall purpose? Do you have strong, meaningful relationships? Do you get 7-8 hours of sleep a night? Are you participating in mentally stimulating activities? These are all elements of true health.
#2: Create a healthy mindset.
Eating healthy isn’t about the latest diet or trend, it is about a lifestyle. It is a lifestyle that celebrates food and healthy eating as an enjoyable way of life. Food is a source of pleasure and should never be associated with guilt or judgement. Sure, it makes sense to limit added sugars or mostly avoid them, even. But completely limiting indulgent foods, or even entire food groups tends to eventually backfire on most people. Being thoughtful about your food choices does not mean you will eat perfectly. There is no pass/fail, but rather opportunities for increasing your knowledge as you establish your own healthy lifestyle and discover the right kinds of foods to fuel your body.
#3 Cook at home more.
We all know the benefits and recognize that eating at home is one of the best ways to promote a healthy lifestyle. Most importantly it offers an excellent opportunity for family bonding. At our house we typically begin our dinner meal with the following questions: “What was your favorite part of the day?”, and “What was the most challenging part of your day?”. This usually leads us into good conversation and opportunity for growth and improvement. Now, let’s be real here, during different seasons such as softball season (yes, this is its own season☺) there are nights that eating out or on the run is the only way to get nutrition into our bodies. But, for the most part, we are at home appreciating a home cooked meal.
#4 Increase your fiber intake!
You don’t leave my office without me talking about fiber and bowel movements. Sorry, but it’s that important! Fiber is an essential nutrient and most Americans fall short of the recommended daily amount. The recommendation is 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed. Most Americans are eating only 11 grams per day. Yikes! Dietary fiber contributes to health and wellness in a number of ways. It helps promote a healthy weight; helps lower cholesterol; helps prevent constipation and diverticulosis; and, also helps maintain healthy blood sugars. High fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, grains, and nuts. Increase your fiber intake gradually and make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids. If you consume more than your usual intake without adequate fluids, you may experience unpleasant side effects.
#5 Limit added sugars.
This is also at the top of my list when it comes to improving your diet and something I address with just about every patient that I see. Whether you are trying to decrease blood sugars; reduce inflammation; improve insulin resistance; decrease triglycerides; or decrease your weight, your sugar intake has to be discussed. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar, for women. For men, it’s 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons. The term added sugars does not include sugars that are found naturally in foods. It refers to sugars or other sweeteners that are added to foods and drinks when they are processed or prepared. For example, in addition to sweetened beverages and desserts, sugar may be added to foods such as breads, cereal, energy bars, ketchup, salad dressings and pasta sauces. So, my recommendation is this…start reading labels if you’re not already doing so, and look at the ingredient list for sugar or sugar terms, such as corn syrup. Also make sure you are choosing unsweetened beverages. This will make a big different in your overall health.
#6 Don’t try to out-exercise a poor nutrition plan.
Physical activity has many benefits, and is recommended for all ages, but the fact is, if you are trying to lose weight your workout routine may not be helping you shed the pounds. We tend to overestimate how many calories we burn during activity, particularly when we are doing something such as running or HIIT workouts. Our high-tech watches and other devices can overestimate the calories we’ve spent working out. This can lead to the reward mentality, which I have to be honest and say that I am guilty! I am currently training for a half marathon, and I find myself putting a little more food on my plate or grabbing a cookie here and there more often than usual. The fact of the matter is, when I am running I only burn approximately 100 calories per mile which is equivalent to 1 Tbsp. of peanut butter, 3 cubes of cheese, 8 teaspoons of ice cream, or 4 oz. of wine. Not enough for my strong appetite! What happens is I end up seeing the number on the scale creep up a bit. So here I am again, preaching balance. Don’t kill yourself on the treadmill if you are not going to put the effort into your nutrition plan as well. A good reminder for this RD too! ☺
Interested in scheduling an appointment with a local Registered Dietitian? Call Blue Mountain Hospital @ 541-575-1311 and ask for Kim Jacobs.