Ask the Expert: How to Make Eating Healthier Easier

Making changes to your diet can be daunting, but it’s not something that has to happen all at once.

Gradual adjustments can be easier to stomach and pay for when you’re shopping.

Registered Dietitian Jen Gawel, from Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital, has some advice.

“Make that list out. You have your staple food items you go though the most often. Pick two or three of those items off the top of that list and look at the food labels from those items. Compare what you’re currently buying to other items in the store that may be a little bit healthier, low calorie, lower fat, lower sodium and make those changes with just a couple of food items each time.”

So you’ve hit the grocery store and filled that cart with healthy, wholesome choices.

But they only do you good if you’re actually eating them.

Gawel has a great tip to make those fruits and vegetables accessible for the whole family:

A cooking class teaches kids about healthy eating.

“After shopping I always say maybe commit a half an hour in the kitchen to take out those vegetables that you bought fresh and do some prep work. Wash them off, cut them up. I like to portion them out so if you like to have them as snacks or go-to lunches, have them ready to go so really you’re creating a fast food of healthy eating and that way when you are hungry at home and you want to eat something, it’s a quick thing. They’re already cut, they’re already fresh, washed, ready to go. And for dinners, if you’re thinking about taking those vegetables, you can easily throw them into a sauté pan and make stir fry or use them in a salad. Makes dinner time prep much faster.”

And if you think that bowl of cereal is a true serving, the reality is probably not.

Here’s a great tip to know how much you’re really eating.

Gawel:

“A lot of the time we don’t want to measure or get out the food scale, which is ok. But I do say some easy homework you can do is take out your regular bowl that you eat things out of, or your regular cup that you drink your beverages out of, and take your measuring cup and measure and see how much actually goes into that bowl or goes into that cup. Start eating off the smaller salad plates. Another great tip is use serving spoons when you’re cooking if you have a bowl of peas or something that you’re having for dinner. If you know that you’re ladle and your serving spoon is a half cup serving, you know how much you’re putting on your plate.”

Eating at home is the best way to know exactly what you’re putting in your mouth.

But it takes time.

Gawel says planning ahead is the best way to make your life easier and healthier at meal time.

“If you can maybe take a little bit of time on the weekends planning in advance figuring out what you’re going to have for meals during the week, that saves on your groceries. “You know what you’re buying, you know what you’re doing with those groceries and also make use of your tools. If you have a crock pot at home, pull out the crock pot and put somethings in the crock pot for dinner. A lot of the time you can get more than one meal out of stretching those meals a little bit. And if you’re preparing a meal at home that you have leftovers, put a plate together or set those out in portions and pop them in the freezer for a time when you need a quick meal that’s kind of healthy without spending a lot of time in the kitchen.”

You can find all kinds of information–and misinformation–on the internet, especially when it comes to your health.

Gawel has some reliable resources to find truly helpful advice.

“Some great places to look for information, if you have access to the internet, which a lot of us do now, the American Diabetes Association is a good website if you’re looking for some things regarding diabetes. If you’re looking for just overall good nutrition info, the academy of nutrition and dietetics also has some good resources, handouts, materials that are very user friendly. They have a myplate.gov website that you can go to and play around. So that’s a fun way of learning how to put meals together as well.”

Categories: the four, Wellness Wednesday – the four