CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – Diet seems to be one of the most loathed four-letter words in the English vocabulary, yet everyone seems to be on one; confused about what they should be eating and often eliminating certain foods unnecessarily on their quests for better health.
However, a path to better health involves changing habits and eating healthier foods you enjoy, according to Barb Van Meerbeke, registered dietitian with Summit Health.
“Good nutrition isn’t about restricting oneself to fruits and vegetables,” she explained. “Healthy eating includes consuming a variety of ‘real’ foods and learning how much you really need to be eating relative to your age and level of physical activity.”
Van Meerbeke said eating for nutrition and good health isn’t limited to just choosing foods wisely, but also about adopting a mindful eating pattern.
“When a person eats slowly and deliberately and takes time to enjoy the textures and flavors of what they are eating, they are less likely to overeat.”
She noted that altering your lifestyle can seem overwhelming, but incorporating small, manageable changes one at a time can make a significant difference in terms of improved long-term health.
“When people come to talk to me about changing their diets, they often want a list of foods they can and can’t eat,” Van Meerbeke said. “They want immediate results and I remind them that old habits don’t die easily.”
Van Meerbeke explained that there is no set list of “dos” and “don’ts” so, she works with those seeking a healthier lifestyle to identify their own problem areas and find changes they can live with long-term.
“If their goals are too lofty, they become overwhelmed and they fail,” she said. “Just one small change at a time – like a better strategy at the grocery store or packing a healthy lunch to eat at work – is all it takes to start a path to improved nutrition and better health.”
Guidelines for healthful eating
- Eat a variety of colorful vegetables
- Eat whole fruit instead of juice, sugary beverages or desserts
- Eat whole grains: bread, cereals, oats, quinoa, farro
- Eat low-fat dairy: milk, yogurt, cheese
- Eat a variety of protein: fish and seafood, lean meat, chicken, eggs, fortified soy products, beans, nuts, seeds
- Use healthy oils: olive, canola, sunflower
- Limit: saturated and trans fats, added sugars, excess sodium