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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tips to Eating Healthier

Amanda Loscar & my boys
March is National Nutrition Month, and the focus on healthy eating continues. Recently, I gave away a $50 Market District gift card and personalized tour with a dietician from Giant Eagle. Lots of readers shared their healthy eating challenges and Amanda Loscar, the dietician who gave us our healthy tour, took the time to give personalized answers to every reader! There are tips here that will work for everyone, so read through and make a change for the better in your eating habits.

The challenges are in bold and Amanda's answers follow.

"Dessert is absolutely my biggest challenge. I need a happy medium between "twice a day" and "never." I don't eat many processed foods (except dessert) and generally feel pretty good about my diet (except dessert)." - Sandra Kozera

RD Response: There are many options to satsisfy a sweet tooth and still feel good about your choice. Try using fruit as/in your dessert to get a natural source of sweetness. Try a baked apple filled with dried fruit and nuts, lightly sprinkled with brown sugar. If fruit is not cutting it allow yourself a small portion of what you are really craving. Often when we try to deprive ourselves of what we really want we end up over eating on “Healthier options,” which may add up to more calories and leave us unsatisfied. Also when we learn to incorpoarate small amount of items we crave the cravings decrease it becomes less of a forbidden item and we are able to control it better. 

So, I have a couple of challenges. My "quick" answer is M & Ms - seriously. I love them, I can't eat just one and they send me into a downward food spiral. The other challenge I face, as a vegan, is preparing foods that satisfy my family AND me. Often, on evenings when pizza is a quick dinner for the kids, I end up eating cereal due to a lack of advance preparation. - Allison Mathis
RD Response: As far as the M&M’s if you feel you have little control over portioning it may be best to keep them out of sight and out of mind. Instead try keeping quick snacks around like nuts or trailmix. As far as your other challenge- to help ensure prep work is done for the week pick a day to do the prep (often a good time is after you return from your shopping trip before items are put away and forgotten). By doing the prep on a specific day will keep you on track and ready to go on busy days. Within our Market District stores we have pre-cut fruits and vegetables available to save you some time as well. Advanced meal planning can help too. Try setting up a meal schedule for the week prior to shopping. Take into consideration what nights will need quick meals, and what nights will allow for a new/longer recipe. If you still end up with a cereal night, bulk it up with some nuts/seeds and fruit to make it more satisfying. You can even add some vegan protein podwer to your milk substitute to increase the protein.

My biggest healthy eating challenge is that I hate cooking. I love baking, but when it comes to the drudgery of making an actual meal, I'm miserable. And it's way easier to microwave a can of soup or throw a frozen pizza into the oven than to do actual food prep and make something from scratch. -  Heather Herrington

RD Response: This is a common comment many of my clients have as well. Cooking can be quick and easy without convenience items. My suggestion is to take advantage of pre-cut fruits/vegetables when grocery shopping. This can save you time and prep work. The pre-cut fruits and veggies can be added to a convenience meal to add a fresh component or they can be mixed into brown rice or quinoa to make a quick side dish. When you have some more time in your week I encourage combining the ingredients for a few crockpot meals in freezer bags so you can pull them out and toss them in to cook with some low sodium broth - a quick easy meal! You may also want to check out for some quick and easy recipes. 

Ranch dressing is a huge downfall for me. I've started switching it out with Greek yogurt "watered down" with a little milk and adding my own seasonings. Another downfall is added sugars and fats in crockpot meals. I'm a huge crockpot meal fan and sometimes the ingredients can be laden with sugary syrups, brown sugar, canned cream soups, etc. I switch out the sugars with raw honey when I can. The creamed soups are harder, but if possible, I do without or I add my own quick cream sauce at the end - Susan Paff
RD Response: You sound like you have found some ways around some of your challenges. To address your concern with crockpot meals there are many recipes available for slow cookers that use the juice from canned tomatoes and added water and spices in place of a broth this will help reduce the sodium. As far as the cream soups you can thicken soups by making a roux, or using unsweetened condensed milk, or non-fat half and half to still get a creamy consistency.
Running my kids around in the car - although I pack healthy lunches for them, sometimes I find it easier to drive thru somewhere (or else I don't eat!) - Kelly Hughes
RD Response: Trying to pack lunches/snack or keeping snacks in the car can help to prevent hitting the drive-thru, but if you still find yourself there here are some tips: do a little research before you head out think about the areas you will be in throughout the day and the options available. Most chain restaurants have their nutrition information available their website. Take a look at this to choose in advance what a better options might be. Many food fast restaurants are providing fresh fruit/fruit cups/fruit parfaits as a side option in place of french fries. Also be mindful of modifications you can request like: hold the mayo, or sauce or dressing on the side. If you have not had time to do the research remember you always have control over the portion you or your children consume so remember to oder the smaller sizes when available or split meal options to spare the extra calories/fat.

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