Over the past 13 years as a dietitian, I have learned that everyone is unique. Overall my recommendations for healthy eating are the same—for the young and old, athletic and sedentary, vegetarian and meat-eater, but I fine-tune information to the individual. I have clients who swear that certain foods “make them fat” or cause constipation or result in a low blood sugar. Even though their claims are not backed in science, I still believe that they are real to them.
When I meet with a client I always want to know what foods they like and what they eat on a typical day. I believe a healthy meal plan can be created including foods that you like. I don’t whip out a menu made before I talk to a client. I also want to know how active they are. Sometimes people think of exercise at a gym as the only activity that counts. If you sit at a desk or on your couch all day then you are living a life that is a much more sedentary than a person who is high energy and always moving around. Studies have found that even the fidget factor (shaking your leg under the table) increases your energy expenditure. I’m thankful for that.
When you are making changes in your eating habits remember that you are an individual. I receive request for “healthy menus and recipes” often. There are websites out there that will spit out a week of menus, but are you really going to follow them for any length of time? There are diet books and health magazines that give menus to follow for 6 weeks. I have yet to meet anyone who follows those diets to the T for any length of time. I feel that kind of information may give you ideas on what to have for some healthy meals, but you need to learn how to pick healthy foods to make meals and snacks that YOU like. For example, I love salads. I could honestly eat salad every day for lunch, but I know that many people get tired of salads. If I gave you a meal plan with salad twice a day every day how long would you follow it?
My favorite articles in fitness magazines are the success stories. I have read hundreds of them, and I love the men and women who have already maintained their healthy lifestyle and healthy weight for years. Although each one is an individual in how they met their goal, I find there are similarities in their tips. Here are the tips I see the most:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables at your meals and for snacks.
- Exercise regularly and do something you enjoy.
- Replace the foods you used to splurge on with healthier or lower calorie alternatives. For example, ½ cup of ice cream vs. a large shake.
- Eat out less and plan for your meals and snacks. Pack your lunch for work, eat more dinners at home, and experiment with cooking healthy foods at home.
- Include your family. The success stories always include a supportive family member.
I talk about nutrition every day. I talk with my husband who is an endurance athlete, my young children, my 70-year old father, my friends who want to lose weight and my friends who are trying to eat healthier. My message always has the same core but I adjust for the individual. You are one-of-a-kind, and you can eat healthy for a lifetime.