National Nutrition Month
March is national nutrition month and it is a prime time to make a commitment to being more conscientious of what you are eating and how it may be affecting your health. You can do some self-exploration or you may choose to consult with a dietician who can guide you further. When you know what to expect, the appointment will go smoother. This means recognizing that the dietician may have access to the electronic chart with your doctor’s notes, lab work, the reason for your appointment and any medications you are taking. It is helpful if you understand what the dietician’s role is and how you can have an active role in your dietary care.
The dietician will usually start off by asking why you are there. “I let them know that I can guess why they are here, but I want them to verbalize it along with what they want to leave with,” said Gerri French, RD, CDE at Sansum Clinic. It is important to let the dietician know your expectations, what you want them to do and what you do not want them to do because it can serve as self-motivation. It is not about the dietician’s agenda, it is about yours. “If people are interested, we can talk to them about the connection between their food choices and their personal health,” French said.
If you are self-referred, it is wise to bring information about your medical history since seeing a dietician is technically medical nutrition therapy. “The patient will tell what they want and there may be a questionnaire with questions about their habits and lifestyle, nutritional supplements, preferences, favorite foods and foods they dislike,” French said. This helps the dietician make appropriate, achievable recommendations. “It is my job to teach people how to have a good relationship with food, so it is not their enemy, but it cannot be their best friend,” French said.
Goals are taken into consideration. “People may want the ideal, optimal diet, just want to lose a little bit of weight or may have diabetes and want to work with exercise and medication when necessary,” French said. The key is to eat mindfully without distractions and to focus on seasonal items. “We want people to enjoy seasonal fruits and vegetables so hopefully they would be purchased close to home or grown close to home,” French said. Dieticians are not just interested in where food comes from but also how it is produced, so it is fresh, local and organic when possible.
Reading labels makes a difference but can take time to learn. “The basic message is to have less processed food, more whole foods, cook at home and eat more quality natural foods,” French said. Try to stay away from animal protein. “We try to encourage meatless Mondays and from a public health perspective, we want people to be appropriate with their portions of animal protein whether it be chicken or beef,” French said. Regardless of how perfect your diet is, you cannot omit physical activity from the equation. “We know that inactivity is a risk factor for disease and that is why people are often overweight,” French said.
When you find a physical activity you enjoy, you will be more inclined to be consistent and actually do it. “People might not need to worry quite so much about their food choices if they would be consistent with physical activity,” French said. Carrying extra weight is harmful for more than just physical appearance. “Your weight is a burden on the body and is a problem for joints and movement,” French said. Have reasonable expectations and realize that you will not get results overnight. “Sometimes people might not need to be their ideal weight; they just need to be a healthy weight,” French said.
Usually people know if they are overweight but the standard is typically to look at body mass index. “We can use the body mass index but it does not take into consideration if the person has extra muscle, so we measure waist circumference to see if weight is mostly in the central area because that is more hazardous for their health,” French said. When you balance your meals better, you will lose weight in your mid-section. People should eat small meals throughout the day. “The problem when people skip a meal is that they might overeat at the next meal,” French said. Try to distribute your food into three meals.
Snack wisely. “People can have a little mini-meal and it would be better to have a cup of soup or vegetables with a dip instead of snacking too much and not giving your body a rest,” French said. Everyone has their own preferences. “A little quesadilla, cottage cheese or peanut butter with an apple could be good snacks but you should be mindful about snacking and not eat on the run,” French said. Striking a balance can have a positive impact on your general wellness. “It is a good idea to have a fruit or vegetable every time you eat along with some quality protein and if you are a vegetarian that could be from grains and beans or tofu,” French said.
Talk to your doctor about other beneficial actions you can take. “Usually we recommend a multiple vitamin, mineral supplement that has vitamin D in it and omega-3 fatty acid source,” French said. Remember that the dietician is there to help you, so you should come with questions. You may even want to write them down in advance to make the most of your visit. “People want to know about the whole protein and carbohydrate controversy; some people are curious about vegetarianism; and whether we think gluten is bad or not is a popular question,” French said. Going gluten-free has become a fad. Gluten does not have to be bad for everybody but in some cases it is contraindicated. “If people have a gluten intolerance they need to stay away and read labels,” French said.
Do things in moderation. “People either are going for a high protein low carb or high carb low protein diet which is more a vegetarian diet and I do not think people need to be extreme in that way,” French said. It is about meeting in the middle. “They just need to come to common ground and be a flexitarian,” French said. Everybody is different. “What works for one person might not work for someone else so that is why dieticians try to personalize their service for people,” French said.
Be responsible for what you eat. “I see people for an hour and then usually recommend they send me food and activity records and glucose records if they have diabetes,” French said. The dietician looks them over and reviews the progress by phone. People with diabetes require the same balance as anybody else. “The diet we promote for diabetes as well as cancer is called an anti-inflammatory diet and the foods in it are the plant kingdom, which are the omega-3 sources, fish and grass-fed beef,” French said. You should have some raw and some cooked. Watching what you are eating can make a marked difference on your health. “When people change their diet dramatically they have amazing results with the circulatory system, inflammation improves and even pain from arthritis can be reduced as well as the chance of getting heart disease,” French said.
Make healthy eating a family affair. “For kids, portions should be smaller and you have to have them learn to like vegetables,” French said. Sometimes this means trying them more than once because they may not like something the first time. “Kids need to know how to cook and it would be great if they shopped at the farmers market with their parents, saw the farmers and got the connection between food and our health,” French said. When you show that you care about nutrition, others will take note. “Having a garden would be a good thing because you will eat more fresh food and share it with your neighbors,” French said. There are so many great ways to take the initiative and get control of your plate and your body and March is an excellent time to begin.
Jamie Lober, author of “Pink Power,” is a freelance writer on health promotions and disease prevention and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
March is Healthy Nutrition Month
Eat healthy to stay healthy
Sansum Clinic has a number of departments and programs that address proper nutrition as part of maintaining your overall good health. Our Nutrition Department has branches at several clinic locations and maintains a staff of registered dieticians and certified health educators. Our Health Education Department offers a number of classes and programs that teach you about good nutrition and can help you to make better choices regarding your diet.
Learn about all our Health Education programs or register online www.sansumclinic.org/classes
For more information visit:
or call 1 (800) 4 SANSUM