Saturday, July 23, 2011

What should I eat?

Happy Saturday everyone!!  One of the biggest questions people ask me once they find out I'm a Registered Dietitian is "what should I eat?" or "can you help me be healthier?"  Obviously, I have answers to both of those - but the majority of the time they would be overwhelming and probably a little long.  My simplified reply is usually something along the lines of the following....

 1) Fruits & vegetables - if you hate them - it's okay if you do - but you need to learn to love them - but that's another post for another day (get excited!!)

 2) Whole unprocessed foods - if you can't pronounce it and don't know what it is (this requires reading the ingredient list my friends) - well, please don't put that in your body.  Clean eating is the way to go - you'll be amazed not only at how much better your food tastes, but how much better you feel. 

3) Stay away from trans-fat. Put on your shoes and don't run, sprint, in the other direction.  Did you know a food can be labeled "trans-fat free" and still have up to 0.5 grams of trans-fat per serving?  Eat just a few servings and it adds up quickly.  Even one serving is too many in my opinion.  You can identify foods with trans-fat by reading the ingredients and looking for the word "hydrogenated".  Trans-fat is a double-edged hit, it lowers your HDL, think of this as your happy cholesterol - the good kind, while raising your LDL, the bad kind of cholesterol.  Ummm, thanks, but no thanks.  You'll find this in the grocery store in baked goods, prepackaged icing, baking mixes, frozen meals and a variety of other things.  Read yo' labels people.

4) Eat breakfast :)  They don't call it the most important meal of the day for nothing!  Think about it, by the time you wake up you're body has been fasting for 10 or more hours.  So give yourself some glucose and set yourself up for success.  Whether you're trying to lose or maintain your weight, not eating breakfast will set you up for failure later in the day - think about how when you go without eating for a long period of time you become ravenous.  Yep, it's that exactly.

5) Meals you make yourself - easier said than done, right?  Who has time to cook?  You might not be hitting up McDonald's every night but Lean Cuisines/Healthy Choice/Smart Ones make it all to easy to stay away from cooking... and they're healthy, right?  Well, the answer to that is not exactly.  Remember, rule # 2?  Yeahhhhh not so much.  Full of sodium, full of things you can't pronounce or chemical names you probably don't recognize, kinda low in calories and scarce in the fruits & vegetables department.  If you fall into the category of hating F&V - you are just going to hate them more if they came out of a Lean Cuisine.  Besides, when I think back to the days when I would occasionally eat one of those meals... well they always just made me feel icky and gross - not to mention hungry.

Number 5 is the tip that always causes a little bit of a panic - you want me to cook?  So what do you do when you're caught between the frozen meal madness and learning to cook on your own?  Or what do you do when you're caught in the fast food circuit?  Or even if you can cook a few things - how can you improve upon that?  Baby steps, my friends, lead to big results... 

1.  Swap out your overly processed frozen meals for something to get you through in the interim - KashiAmy'sTrader Joe's (pssst Amy's meals in TJ's boxes, but you never heard that from me) and Whole Paycheck 365 are great places to start your transition.  If you're a fast food eater - swap out your trips to McDonald's for these instead.  Feel free to store these meals for weeks and nights that are busy or stressful.  Keep in mind, unless you buy low sodium versions, you are still going to take a bigger sodium hit - but you'll also be getting whole foods and vegetables.  Yes, they are more expensive - spend money on better food now or on prescription medications later - completely your call.

2.  Make a list of the easy foods you know how to make and a list of the foods you would like to learn how to make.  Do you know how to make scrambled eggs?  Guess what, you can probably learn fairly easily to make an omelet.  Do you know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich?  You have the skills to make a grilled veggie sandwich with hummus.  Can you use a microwave?  You can now steam vegetables, make oatmeal, reheat leftovers and even cook eggs.  The internet will be able to tell you how to make anything - even has a recipe for how to make this (I really hope you don't need that btw).

3.  Stock your kitchen a little. Buy a set of measuring cups (to measure flour, pasta, etc.), a glass/plastic measuring cup for liquids and measuring spoons - hit up the dollar store.  Make sure you have one baking pan and a nonstick skillet.  You'll also need storage dishes - I love these - or feel free to use similar sized plastic tupperware containers (make sure they are freezable).  You can find most of these items for reasonable prices at Home Goods or Target.

I love KitchenAid

4. Know where to look for recipes - is one of my favorites - I like to search Cooking Light.  Think of things you like to order at restaurants and make them yourself - Dewey's has an amazing salad with lettuce, cranberries, nuts, goat cheese and balsamic.  I imitate it at home using spinach leaves, cranberries, sunflower seeds, cucumbers, goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.  I've also made a gluten-free version of the Edgar Allen Poe.  I have a friend who is going to re-create Panera's poppyseed chicken salad for a party she's hosting.  Re-creating things also gives you the chance to give the item a nutritional boost, by adding spinach, swapping for whole grain crust or pasta, etc.

Edgar Allen Poe :)

5.  Make simple swaps.  Did you know that 0% yogurt makes an incredible ranch dip? Use 2% milk slices on your sandwich - I promise you won't tell the difference.  Switch to a trans-fat free margarine (I send my love to Smart Balance Light with Flax)  Do you only drink 2%?  Make a mix of 3/4 2% and 1/4 1% for a few days, then equal amounts of both, then 3/4 1% and 1/4 2%.  During my dietetic internship, we did a milk taste test with patients.  Hands down 1% was the favorite... even among whole milk drinkers who were convinced it was whole.

6. Add something new.  Have you ever heard of flaxseed?  Ground, it's a great addition to oatmeal, smoothies, pancakes, muffins.  High in fiber with omega-3's in the form of alpha linoleic acid (ALA).  Taste test some new foods that are outside of your comfort zone.  I just bought tempeh fakin' bacon for the first time last week and it's amazing.  Heard lots of things about edamame?  Pick up some pods from your freezer section. 

7.  Learn to love your freezer.  Since I'm only cooking for myself, recipes always make leftovers.  Soups, pizza and pasta freeze well and can be easily taken to work and re-heated - just grab one out of the freezer, throw a fresh fruit or veggie in your bag and you're good to go.

These steps might be a little intimidating - but with a little effort you'll reap many rewards!

PS:  Look for a recipe for Easy Peasy Pasta Sauce tomorrow :)

What tip would you add to this list?


  1. You're being a RD has definitely helped me! I know I probably drive you nuts with all of my questions about what I should eat.But you are right,I feel better this past year than I probably have in my entire life. Thanks for all of your help!!!

  2. "Buy expensive food now or prescription meds later"- I LOVE THIS QUOTE!!!! Keep up the good work :)

  3. thank God you are blogging and i get a chance to tap into your well of knowledge!! thank you for this!! <3