It’s hard to eat healthy in this fast-food, junk-food culture. What about the people who are paid to encourage people to eat healthier? How are they able to do it? I asked dietitians across the country to learn what do dietitians do, how they manage to eat well despite all of life’s challenges. They shared their favorite tips and tricks.
Fast Food Weekly – Make Smart Choices
This is one of my favorite tips for how to be a mother and a dietitian in real life while still aiming for healthy eating. My now 16-year old daughter was in kindergarten when I began bringing lunch to her on Fridays. This was the beginning of “fast food Friday”. Even though my girls are in high school now, I still do this. They are willing to meet their mom at school front if it means they get a break from bag lunches.
This is, in my opinion, a lesson in moderation. My girls have fast food once a week. But it’s not a standard meal. They have also learned to make healthier choices when it comes to fast food. Fast food Friday is often comprised of barbecue grilled chicken sandwiches on whole grain buns, bean burritos or vegetable-topped personal Pizzas.
Limit Your Daily Consumption to 1 Diet Soda
There’s soda everywhere you go in this culture. People limit sugary drinks, but can have unlimited diet sodas. This seems like a good solution considering that 41% (or more) of American teens and children consume beverages. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, teens consume 327 calories per day from sugary drinks, teas, energy drinks, and sodas. Instead of replacing sugary drinks by diet versions, I prefer to limit my intake of artificial sweeteners and diet sodas to one per day. This leaves more space for healthy green teas and hydrating water.
If diet sodas are something you love, like I do, limit your intake to just one can during the day. For me, this is right after lunch or in the afternoon. You’ll find diet sodas in the dietitian’s fridge, but there are plenty of other options such as mineral water, fresh squeezed orange juice and low-fat milk.
Marcia Yamashiro RD, a Northern California dietitian who counsels individuals with eating disorders, takes part in weekly “pizza nights” with her four-member family.
Is that not surprising? It’s not surprising that pizza can be better than fatty meats if it is topped with vegetables, especially if it is made from whole grain crust. Ask for extra pizza sauce. It’s high in phytochemicals, which are derived from tomatoes. For a balanced, nutrient-rich and more balanced meal, serve the slices with a green salad.
Avoid breakfast cereals containing less than 3 grams of fiber
Carol Ann Brannon, RD is a Georgia nutrition therapist and food coach. She ensures that all breakfast cereals in her kitchen have at least 3 grams of fiber per serve.
Brannon says, “This is how I get my youngest daughter interested in cereals with fiber. These are often the ones that have less sugar.”
Get more protein
Christine Gerbstadt MD, RD is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She insists on eating protein with every meal and snack. For meal replacement smoothies, Gerbstadt suggests using whey, soy or egg white protein.
Keep Score of Vegetables and Fruits
Barbara Quinn MS, a clinical dietitian at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula keeps track of how many vegetables and fruits she eats each day. “If I reach the end of the day without eating a single piece of fruit or vegetable, you can guess what we are having for dinner.” Quinn agrees.
Brannon also loves the produce aisle and tries to add a vegetable or fruit to every meal. Gerbstadt also says that she tries to include vegetables in her meals and snacks whenever she can.
On Weekends, Alcohol is Only Available
“If you like alcohol, keep in mind that it can quickly add up to calories — and one way is to limit your consumption to weekends,” Kathleen Zelman (RD), director of nutrition at WebMD.
Limit your alcohol consumption to Friday and Saturday nights, and limit it to one or two drinks each night.
Enjoy an after-dinner drink
Zelman suggests that a hot cup of tea, or decaf latte, can be a great way to satisfy dessert cravings after dinner. Many people feel hungry after dinner. A low-calorie or no-calorie beverage is a good option to keep your hands busy.
Get Pre-Dinner Produce Munchies
Bonnie Liebman MS, director nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, notes that “Before I begin cooking dinner, I cut vegetables or fruit for my family to snack on while cooking.”
This prevents her family from eating unhealthy snacks while waiting for dinner, and also encourages healthy eating in two ways. Liebman states that it allows for a portion of vegetables to be consumed before other food is served. People are more likely to like food when they are hungry.
Four Colors for Each Meal
Jennifer Reilly, RD, Senior Nutritionist at The Cancer Project in Washington, D.C., ensures that every meal her family eats naturally includes at least four colors. “Skittles don’t count!” Reilly.