Most of us want to eat healthily but aren't sure what to do differently to have the most impact on health. My clients often ask questions in my weight management practice about how I feed myself and my children. Here are some of my responses to common themes asked by my clients looking to live healthier:
I eat breakfast every day. When I wake up, I always eat breakfast that includes some protein to start my day right. Examples of what my breakfast might be are: an egg; Greek yogurt topped with crunchy cereal; oatmeal topped with cinnamon, raisins, and nuts; a nutrition bar that I use in my practice; whole wheat toast with cheese melted on top; low-fat cottage cheese with cubed fruit or berries; and natural peanut butter spread between banana slices. These are some of the items that I enjoy, but I always encourage some protein food at breakfast instead of the carb-load that many have as a traditional breakfast (such as pancakes, waffles, bagel, donut, pastry, etc.). I consider breakfast meats added fat instead of protein, and I do not eat them. By eating a protein food at breakfast, you might find that you have more energy later in the day and avoid a mid-day lull.
I do believe that snacking is important for kids and can be a way for them to get additional nutrition. (My children are now in middle and high school.) I made a list of "anytime snacks" that I posted on my refrigerator; my kids were allowed to have them if they were hungry between meals. These nutritious snacks include: celery sticks and peanut butter; crackers and cheese; yogurt; fruit; nuts; cereal and milk; vanilla wafers; peanut butter sandwiches; cut- up veggies and dip, etc. Each of my children also had a tin with their name on it containing a week's worth (7 each) of sweet snacks for that child (package of gummy treats, baggie of gold fish and pretzels, baggie of 10 M&Ms, baggie of 3 Oreo cookies, etc.). My children could have one sweet treat each day. If they ate all 7 in one day then they knew their tin would not be filled until the following week. Learning to space out your sweets has really helped them make smarter choices on their own. It also taught them portion control over sweets because they never had 10 cookies as a serving.
Everyone can benefit from eating more fruits and vegetables. It can help ward off disease, help manage weight control; and make your body overall healthier as they are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. If you have a candy dish out on the table when the kids come home from school, guess what they grab to eat? Candy, right? I always have cut up fruit or berries in a bowl on the table when my children come home from school. They may just grab one slice of apple and run through the kitchen but by dinnertime that bowl is empty. If I leave out cut-up vegetables (carrots, celery, peppers, and cucumbers), they disappear before dinner as well.
Every member of your family can benefit from healthy changes in your household. You don't have to do what I chose to do to be healthier, but you should do something to eat more like a dietitian in your household.
Joni Rampolla is a registered dietician and certified health coach.