Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day

That's the theme of this year's 40th anniversary National Nutrition Month®! It's going on all through the month of March.

What's it all about? National Nutrition Month (NNM) is an annual campaign sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Good nutrition can impact our lives in many ways: from the prevention of diseases (such as cancer and heart disease), to the management of diseases (everything from lactose intolerance to diabetes to celiac disease to high cholesterol), to weight management and general healthy living. During the annual NNM, the Academy focuses attention on “the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.” It's an entire month in which to think about one of the most important things you can do for yourself--lead a healthy lifestyle. And it's a great time to get started on the path to healthy living! This year's theme encourages you to find your own unique way.

"Eat right, your way, every day" encourages personalized healthy eating styles. We all have our own style--and that is no different when it comes to food and nutrition. One strategy doesn't work for us all because we're all unique! And as both an individual and RD, I embrace that. Your healthy eating style should fit your likes, dislikes and lifestyle. Are you a meat-lover? Vegetarian? Athlete? Do you require a low cholesterol or carb-controlled diet? Do you travel often? The list of differences could go on and on. So next time you hear about the next miracle or one-size-fits-all nutrition plan, think again. Will it really work for us all?

The message of this year’s NNM also emphasizes how a registered dietitian can assist you with eating healthfully in a manner that works for you. Dietitians strive to help people make healthier choices every day that are based on scientific fact, not the latest trend. That's what the GoodFood blog is really all about. To become a registered dietitian (RD), an individual must earn at least a bachelor’s degree, complete a supervised practice program, and pass a registration examination--so they really know their stuff.

RDs like myself strive to work with their clients so they can accomplish the goal of eating right, their way, every day. We gather information about YOUR food preferences, YOUR lifestyle and activity level, YOUR health status and YOUR goals. As a team, we design a plan that you can stick to all the while providing suggestions for meal plans and recipes. We motivate you to stay on the path of good health, even when it is tempting to go astray, by breaking down the sometimes overwhelming task of eating right into smaller, manageable short-term goals. And if chronic disease management needs to be included too, no worries--your dietitian can help you determine foods and a style of eating to manage symptoms. Sounds fun, right? Well it is! At least for a foodie like me :)

The bottom line is: All foods can fit in a healthy eating plan. Learn how to eat a diet based in healthy foods; not only are the possibilities endless, but they're so good for you! Favorite foods, indulgences and special occasions are no reason to throw in the towel for healthy eating--they're all part of the plan. By working with a dietitian you can learn to incorporate balance, moderation and variety: three essentials for healthy eating. These aren’t concepts used by most fad diets; in fact, many fad diets encourage complete elimination of one or more food groups! This exclusion of specific types of foods can lead to nutrient deficiencies and other negative effects--not to mention it just doesn't last. Forget fad dieting! See an RD for your nutrition needs. And I apologize for the shameless plug, but it is my month: If you're in Missouri or adjacent to the St. Louis area, click here for more information about in-person or e-counseling with RDbyyourside. {P.S. You'll find a NNM special here too} If you're not, visit www.eatright.org to find an RD near you.

Is it really possible to eat right every day? Sure! Until you are able to make an appointment with your RD for specific and personal goals, remember these essentials for healthful nutrition that you can use every day, your way:

It's the recipe for weight management, which helps us feel good and prevent disease. Keep your food intake (calories in) in balance with activity (calories out). Keep tabs on how much food you're taking in and find an exercise routine to do consistently. Don’t force yourself to do activities you find boring, but rather choose activities you enjoy. Exercise with friends and family to make your exercise time a social event as well. (Be sure to talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program).

Using the concept of moderation in your diet will help you have that occasional treat without the frustration of weight gain. It is okay to indulge every now and then (and is it really realistic to think that you’ll never do it again?), but balance your treats with making healthier, more nutrient-dense choices the rest of the day and most days of the week.

It’s the spice of life! There are so many foods that are good (healthy and tasty) for us to eat, so it is certainly not necessary to eat the same foods over and over again to be successful in weight management and a healthy diet. Variety helps eliminate diet-boredom and temptation too. Incorporate all the food groups into your diet, along with variety from within each group. 
  • Grains provide our major source of energy. 
  • Protein helps to replenish our muscle mass and help with our body’s structure. 
  • Dairy is important for building strong bones. 
  • Fruits and vegetables provide us with many vitamins and minerals; eat a rainbow!
  • Healthy fats help keep us full and control cholesterol.

So are you ready to embrace the concept of eating right, your way, every day? What's your style? Please share!

Published with the help of contributor, Kelly Houston, Saint Louis University Dietetic Intern.
Photo published with permission from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics