We all have nutrition questions. Send yours along to RVNA’s on-staff dietitian, Meg Whitbeck, MS RDN, and she’ll get back to you with answers and advice.
February 2018: Ask the Dietitian
“There is so much conflicting information out there about how to eat for heart health. What do I really need to know if I want to avoid heart disease?”
I love the timing of this question! Why? February is American Heart Month. If this time of year has you dreaming about a heart-shaped box of chocolates, maybe it’s time to put some thought into what’s really good for your heart – your actual heart, not the chocolate one. In spite of all the advances in medicine over the years, heart disease remains the leading cause of illness and death in the country. But there are things we all can do to help minimize our risk. A heart-healthy diet is one of the easiest places to start. What’s not so easy is knowing exactly what that means – especially in the face of the many diet fads that come and go. In honor of Heart Month, let’s take a look at the important elements of eating to prevent heart disease.
Keep it Low
Saturated fat and cholesterol, that is. To keep your diet as heart healthy as possible, it’s important to limit your intake of saturated fat found in animal products, and avoid trans fats, from partially hydrogenated oils, entirely. Limiting cholesterol is also key. Cholesterol — found in foods such as red meat and high-fat dairy — can raise blood cholesterol levels. This is of particular concern for those already at a high risk of heart disease. Sodium is also an important player in heart health because of its impact on blood pressure, so keep your intake moderate.
Keep it Real
Search the internet and you’ll see many people who promote a strict vegan diet as the only way to help treat or prevent heart disease. This is not necessarily the case. While a healthy vegan diet can have benefits, it’s not the only option. Being too restrictive isn’t realistic or sustainable for most of us, so veganism might not be your best bet. A plant-based diet (eating mostly plants, with occasional egg, dairy, meat, fish, and poultry) is a great way to get started in reducing your dietary intake of saturated fat and cholesterol. Learn more about plant-based diets here: http://www.vrg.org/ – The Vegetarian Resource Group
Keep it Whole
Instead of obsessing about counting calories and fat grams, focus on eating whole foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. This means plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and healthy whole grains. Brown rice and oats are always good grain choices, but branching out to other options, such as quinoa, millet, bulgur, and buckwheat can keep things interesting. Most importantly, focusing on the wide variety of delicious foods you can eat will make it easier to give up the few things you can’t.
Keep it Light
Processed foods and added sugars should be the lightest part of your diet. Consume lean meat, poultry, dairy, sweets, and desserts in small amounts. Fish can be eaten slightly more often.
In general, it’s best to focus on getting a balance of the wholesome choices discussed here. The best news of all? Chocolate… and by that, I mean dark chocolate… can be good for your heart in moderation, so Happy Valentine’s Day!
To learn more about eating for your heart, join us for “Feed Your Heart,” a 4-week nutrition class devoted to heart health. For details and registration information, click here.
January 2018: Ask the Dietitian
A Fresh Take on New Year’s Resolutions
Hard to believe it’s that time of year again: time to take stock of the past year and make our resolutions for the year ahead. Are you thinking, “Didn’t I just make resolutions?” If last year’s goals fell by the wayside once post-holiday life kicked into gear, you’re not alone. Maybe 2018 is time for a fresh approach with these simple tips to make your resolutions stick.
Renew your goals.
It’s a good idea to review and renew your health and wellness goals every year. Take a fresh look at where you are and where you’d like to be a year from now. Don’t let past experiences dissuade you from tackling a challenging task. Setting SMART goals (Specific • Measurable • Achievable • Relevant •Time-bound) can help. (See below.)
Determine where you are.
If you haven’t already done so, schedule physicals, eye exams, dental cleanings, and preventive health screenings. Knowing where you stand is an important first step in determining what you want to achieve this year.
Involve the experts.
Have a candid conversation with your doctor or other healthcare professional about what they think your priority should be. Your best move may seem obvious at first, but there may be something you’re missing. Asking a professional can help you keep the right things in perspective.
What’s it going to be? Time to choose.
After talking to your doctor, choose just one thing to work on at a time. You’ll have a greater likelihood of success if you focus your efforts. Choosing too many things to improve at one time can leave you feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to start. So what’s it going to be? Sleep? Diet? Exercise? Mindfulness? Choose one and get started. Then tackle the others one at a time as you make progress.
Set yourself up for success.
Once you know where you’re focusing your energy, the best thing you can do for yourself is plan ahead, find support in professionals, family, and friends, and look for tools to help measure your progress. The internet is a good place to start for free electronic resources to address a variety of issues. Printable food logs are also available. Use one as a place to start, and customize it to meet your needs by adding columns for sleep and exercise, for example. If you prefer a book, there are many journals available to purchase. The most important thing is to choose the tool and format that suits your lifestyle.
The new year is a great time to begin on your path to wellness, and the right tools can make that path smoother. If you need help getting started, feel free to contact me for a private consultation at 203-438-5555 or email@example.com.
December 2017: Ask the Dietitian
What happens in December … stays in December
At this time of year, I typically like to give advice on how to enjoy the holidays without going entirely off the rails. This year, however, I’m leaving you to your own devices to navigate the splendors of the season — I trust you! — and proceeding right on to January. It’s important to think about the new year before it actually begins.
If you have any nutritional aspirations or goals for 2018 – and most of us do – here are my tips for turning those aspirations into actualities.
Set a SMART Goal.
For those who haven’t encountered this curious acronym before, SMART stands for:
• Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
• Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
• Achievable (agreed, attainable)
• Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
• Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)
This means that while having such noble plans as, “I will eat more healthfully in 2018,” or “I will eat less cheese and more fruit,” and “I will never touch red meat again!” are admirable, they are hard to measure. And possibly unrealistic. Whereas, “I will eat 3 servings of vegetables per day every day in January 2018,” is easy to understand and measure.
If you need help or advice setting SMART goals, please feel free to contact me for recommendations based on your specific needs at 203-438-5555 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Accountability is key. It’s good to have some “skin in the game.”
It’s generally considered ‘easier’ to succeed with a plan if you’ve committed time, energy, even money to the goal. And if you’re not the only one in the world who knows about the plan.
Take, for example, the age old question: “If a tree in the forest gives up dessert for January but “cheats” every night and nobody is there to see it, did the tree actually “cheat.”
Why yes, it did. That tree needed to join a weight management group, or keep a nutritional journal or, heck, tell some tree friends about its goals.
*Speaking of groups, take a look at our Women’s Nutrition & Lifestyle for Weight Management group starting on January 2nd. It promises to be motivational. And fun.
Get the support you need.
No man is an island. Look around you. Everywhere there are friends, family, colleagues, strangers even . . who likely have similar goals to your own. Or meaningful goals of their own.
Enlist each other.
Find a workout buddy to meet you at the gym or on the roads; join forces with a family member to reinforce good habits at home; share your goals with colleagues and spend lunchtime together comparing notes or taking a brisk walk.
Getting support from those around you increases your chances of success. And makes it more fun while you’re at it.
Happy New Year!