Thrive by IU Health

February 10, 2023

Simple ways to get your nutrition aligned with your health goals

Simple ways to get your nutrition aligned with your health goals

Many of us have health goals we want to achieve, whether losing some excess pounds, trimming up our midline or simply wanting to feel more energized throughout the day. Regardless of your goals, finding legitimate nutritional advice online can be challenging to start progressing toward your health goals. What helped one lose weight may not work for you, which is okay. It's important to remember that everyone's body is slightly different.

So, how do you take steps to achieve your health goals?

Madilyn Sheerer, RD, LD, CDCES – an IU Health registered dietician, encourages her clients to start with small, sustainable changes that build over time. These changes would include changes to both your diet as well as changes to eating habits or behaviors.

When changing your diet or what foods you're eating, start with small changes and build over time. Sheerer encourages her clients to be realistic in their goals and expectations. By setting small, sustainable goals, you can find great satisfaction in achieving them.

Think about it like this – you wouldn't decide to run a marathon on a whim without any training. It's nearly impossible to do that.

In the same way, think about your eating habits as a lifestyle change. Making changes in your life around eating habits is a marathon, not a sprint. You must also train your body to adapt to changes.

First, let's look at how to change what you're eating. There are a couple of misconceptions here that we need to address.

Misconception 1: healthy foods taste bad.

There are two sides to this misconception. First, you may not like a particular food that's considered healthy. You do not need to force a particular food down just because it's healthy. Sheerer encourages clients to eat foods they enjoy and supports their health goals.

For example, if you do not like Brussels sprouts but like broccoli, eat broccoli instead. There is no reason to force yourself to eat Brussels sprouts when other options offer the same health benefits.

Second, you may not be preparing that food in a way that tastes good to you. If you don't like a particular food, that's okay. However, if there's a food you're okay with but wish tasted better, Sheerer would encourage you to try a different way of preparing that food.

Healthy eating doesn't have to consist of boiled chicken and steamed broccoli on a bed of plain rice. A vast array of herbs and seasonings are available (some sodium free as well) that you can use to flavor your food. Making healthy foods that taste good is critical to sticking with any changes you're trying to implement.

Misconception 2: eating healthy is expensive.

While some healthy foods can cost more than unhealthy foods, there are ways to combat food costs:

  1. Plan a grocery list and stick to it. Sticking to a list will help you limit the unhealthy foods you bring home.
  2. Frozen fruits and vegetables are cheap and still as nutritional as fresh produce. Frozen fruits and vegetables can keep for much longer, so you won't have to worry about using your fresh produce before it goes bad.
  3. Keep ingredient lists simple and repurpose food throughout the week or freeze leftovers.

An easy example is making several different chicken dishes throughout the week. By creating several different chicken dishes, you can buy chicken one time but create enough variety in your meals that you won't get bored quickly.

Check out our video on shopping smarter, not harder, at the grocery store.

Simple Ways to Practice Mindful Eating

When aligning nutrition with your health goals, it's not just about what foods you eat. While it's still important to be mindful of what you're putting into your body, it isn't quite everything. One way of aligning your nutrition with your health goals is to pay attention to eating behaviors.

It's easy for us to develop poor eating behaviors that can quickly become habits if we're not careful. However, there are a few eating behaviors that Sheerer recommends incorporating into your life to help you achieve your health goals.

Slow down and sit down to eat.

Life can get busy. It can be tempting to quickly gobble down a sandwich between meetings or on your way to your next appointment. But unfortunately, doing this can make it hard for your body to detect signs of fullness.

Also, when rushing to eat, you're probably not chewing your food as thoroughly as you should. Not chewing food properly can lead to indigestion and bloating. So, as best you can, try to sit down to eat and don't rush through your meal, and remember to chew your food thoroughly.

Put your phone away.

It's easy to pull out your phone to catch up on sports games scores or check in on what your friends are doing on social media while you eat. However, having your phone out lets you focus on what's on the screen, not what you're putting into your mouth.

Instead, focus on the conversation with your friends or family during a meal. If you're eating by yourself, focus on the food you have in front of you. Make mental notes of the flavors you taste, or take time to unplug from the busyness of life.

Don't deprive yourself.

When knowing that a cheat day or meal is coming, it's not uncommon to withhold food, such as skipping lunch to save room for that cheat dinner and not feel guilty. Unfortunately, what ends up happening is overeating when the cheat meal comes around.

Instead of depriving yourself of food, remember to fuel your body with foods that support your health goals before having that cheat meal. Doing this will help you maintain adequate blood sugar levels and prevent overeating later in the day.

Remember that achieving your health goals is a journey. There isn't a quick fix to nearly anything in life, especially regarding being mindful of our food choices. However, if you stay patient and incorporate small sustainable changes consistently over time, you will see results for your effort. Soon enough, you will achieve those big health goals and be the version of yourself.

If you're looking for a more detailed plan for achieving your health goals, reach out to your Primary Care provider. They can refer you to a registered dietician who can work with you to achieve your health goals.

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