Smart nutrition in a diet-crazy world
In any given week, you are likely bombarded with messages about what foods are healthy for you. Whether in news headlines about the latest research, advertisements for products that will solve weight problems, or from friends excited about new food trends, you're likely getting more information than you know what to do with.
“People are more interested in their diet today. But at the same time, it’s become more confusing in some ways,” explains Mary Hurd Aram, Certified Diabetes Educator and Clinical Dietitian. “Every day there’s more and more nutrition research and science about the chemistry of food. People often get excited about nutrition but then get overwhelmed by all the conflicting information.” As a member of Enloe Diabetes Education Services, Aram helps guide individuals to healthy food choices to improve their lives.
D.I.E.T. not diet
One of the biggest problems, according to Aram, is the way people think about their diet. “The word diet has become laden with a lot of negative connotation,” says Aram. “It’s mostly used to refer to something that is overly restrictive and lots of hard work. Dieting is something you’re only able to do for short periods of time, as most diets leave you unable to participate in most customary eating situations. In general, they are just not sustainable.”
That’s why Aram urges her patients to reimagine their diet using the acronym D.I.E.T. — Developing Intelligent Eating Techniques. In order to develop these techniques Aram advises her patients to:
- Focus on “diets” that concentrate on what to eat instead of what not to eat.
- Avoid eating plans that promise quick fixes.
- Steer clear of plans that eliminate an entire food group or suggest focusing on one specific food group.
When helping her patients create new ways of eating, among other research evidence, Aram can use recommendations from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) OmniHeart Nutrition Combination Plan.
- Make vegetables a main course – make vegetables half of your plate
- Keep saturated fat and cholesterol low – limit your lean meat protein to 4-6 oz. per day; fish can be more
- Don't overdo grains – emphasize whole grains and shoot for no more than four servings per day
- Minimize added sugar – aim for less than 2 teaspoons (8 grams) per day; watch out for dry cereal and other packaged carbohydrate foods
- Limit sodium – avoid high-sodium processed foods and limit eating away from home
- Eat beans and nuts – add beans to your salad and be careful of nuts; aim for about ¼ c. per day
- Eat real food, not "junk" processed food – think of eating foods out of a package, like granola bars, as a treat
- Cut liquid calories – this boosts weight loss more than limiting solid food calories
“Almost every one of my patients can benefit from finding a way to make vegetables a part of every meal,” says Aram. “Low carbohydrate, or non-starchy, vegetables are preferred. Our culture has an abundance of higher starch and carbohydrate foods.” When you eat more vegetables, you ultimately end up eating less of other foods because vegetables allow you to eat a greater volume with fewer calories than other foods.
While Aram doesn’t recommend eliminating grains, she does advise that those who have digestive concerns consider limiting processed grains such as pizza, breads, noodles and crackers. “It’s often helpful to think if there’s something else you can put in place of those processed grains such as fruit, a starchy vegetable, legumes or hummus,” says Aram. “Grains aren’t evil or bad, but we overemphasize them in our diet because they are so readily available.”
Another area where Aram advises caution is with liquid carbohydrates. “Many of us need to hold ourselves more accountable for how often we get liquid carbohydrates from things like juices, smoothies, coffee drinks, sports drinks and even cocktails,” says Aram. “Liquid carbohydrates stimulate the appetite. If you’re having trouble limiting these, it can help to limit your consumption to meals where you have solid foods. For instance, if you’re going to have a morning sweetened coffee drink, try to have it with a hardboiled egg. Or if you’re having a smoothie, limit the number of ounces and have a protein-veggie rich meal like a chicken Caesar salad with it at lunch. It will help you avoid over-consuming.”
Make good nutrition part of your life
“Eating healthy often means taking more time to plan and be involved with food,” says Aram. “This can be challenging, but I encourage you to look at it as a new hobby, something that can be enjoyable and fun.” Raising some of your own food or buying from one of our many community farms may also help stimulate your interest and enjoyment of healthier eating.
Enloe Diabetes Education Services is available to help with nutrition concerns related to diabetes and kidney disease. For other nutrition concerns, the service can provide information about community resources and qualified professionals. For more information, contact Diabetes Education Services at 530.332.6840.