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NOURISH

Three healthy eating rules from a dietitian

Dietitians avoid hard rules when it comes to healthy eating, so the following rules of mine may surprise you a bit. They are not black and white or a "don't list" of foods to avoid. What I've learned as a dietitian is when it comes to eating behaviors, a sustainable approach is best. Too many black and white rules can lead to you giving up or giving way to yo-yo dieting.

Whether it's improving your weight, heart health, diabetes, blood pressure, energy level or preventing diseases here are some of my most often repeated recommendations to my patients. 

Rule #1:  Eat more veggies and fruit. 

On the MyPlate diagram, fruit and veggies take up half the plate for good reason! Fruit and vegetables give you many nutrients, tend to be low calorie and can help with disease prevention and wellness. Take one cup of chopped broccoli, for example. It is high in vitamins A, C and B6; and is a good source of potassium, folate and fiber, all for about 50 calories. One cup of raspberries is loaded with fiber, vitamin C and manganese; and is a good source of magnesium, vitamin K, folate and copper, all for a measly 64 calories. 

So, I recommend that you spend some time thinking about realistic ways for you to get more produce on your plate (and in your mouth). 

Rule #2: Be mindful of your eating. 

Staying mindful about your eating can lead to a healthier overall relationship with food. And, a healthy relationship with food is crucial to making your efforts last. I recommend you think about what, why and how?

What are you eating?  Use your knowledge about nutrition and consider the details. Read the label, ask questions as to how the food is prepared, and know how long the food will satisfy you.

Why are you eating? Ask yourself if you're eating because you're hungry. It seems like a no-brainer, but in reality there is a long list of reasons why we eat. Eating when you're hungry means you're following your internal cues that you need fuel. Eating for other reasons will happen, but if it happens too frequently calories can add up fast and lead to weight gain. 

How are you eating? Fast-paced and distracted eating can lead to consuming larger portions. You won't get the physical signal that you've eaten enough until about 20 minutes after you start eating. If you've eaten too quickly and too much, by the time you get to that point you'll likely feel uncomfortable.  

Rule #3: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 

Thinking this way can help broaden your nutrition and health and helps you feel full longer. Most of us have experienced feeling hungry again about two hours after eating a bowl of cereal or plain toast for breakfast. This is because these are mainly carbohydrates which are digested and absorbed more quickly. However, if your meal has a nice balance of the three macronutrients—carbohydrates, proteins and fats, along with some fiber—you will get more nutritional value, and will feel much more satisfied or "satiated" three hours later.

This rule also is important to keep in mind when planning your daily snacks. Staying ahead of feeling too hungry and adding some good nutritional snacks can help you fend off those temptations and cravings for sugar and empty calories.

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