Eat for Health, Not a Number: 8 Dietitian Tips
I love that more and more registered dietitian nutritionists recommend that you focus on positive, healthful eating patterns rather than a number on your bathroom scales. After all, weight is such a, well, “weighty” issue! We all have our own unique genetic makeup, which impacts our metabolism, diet, health, and weight. Thus, we all have different body shapes; no, we all cannot (and should not) look like the often photo-shopped images you see in magazines or Instagram. An obsession with that number on the scale can often lead to unhealthful relationships with foods. So, create a better understanding of food by focusing on the best food choices you can make. I asked top dietitians to share their best tips for making healthful food choices to inspire a better relationship with food. Read on to learn more about how to eat for health, not a number.
Eat for Health, Not a Number: 8 Dietitian Tips
1. Think about taste, pleasure, and sustenance. “I think about taste and pleasure with eating, which could come from French fries and roasted Brussels sprouts. When I meal plan, I make sure I have access to a variety of foods I like and then when I put together a meal, I think about how the food will sustain me and help me feel good in the long run. This usually results in more balanced meals with veggies, beans, and lean protein foods. If a client is feeling guilty about eating a specific food because of a weight concern, I’d help them resolve the critical thoughts in their mind so they feel better about flexible eating patterns,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, EP-C, author of Body Kindness.
2. Balance foods with energy. “Instead of labeling food ‘good’ and ‘bad’, get curious with what amounts, combinations and types of food make you feel how you want to feel. For example, if you want to have more energy, instead of cutting out foods, experiment with foods that may help with balancing energy and play with them to see which ones you enjoy! By focusing on foods we can add more of, more people are likely to make long term changes!” says Kori Kostka, RD.
3. Focus on whole foods. “It’s such a joy when people discover the overall health benefits from eating whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, and nuts and seeds with greater energy and focus, as well as improved blood sugar, blood pressure and lipid levels and most of the time weight loss occurs in the process,” says Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, author of Total Body Diet for Dummies.
4. Indulge your senses with seasonal plants. “Head to your local farmers market and indulge in the colors, scents, and flavors of the new season. Ask the growers questions on how to prepare their produce. You’ll discover new foods and techniques to bring out the extraordinary flavor of fruits, vegetables, and yes, even desserts. In this way, you will naturally gravitate to a diversity of plant foods and reap the proven benefits,” says Tamar Rothenberg, RDN, post-cancer nutrition services.
5. Eat for health not body size. “When we eat for a number on the scale, inevitably, the weight returns, and foods become vilified. Categorizing foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, depending on what diet rules you are following, can lead to shame, food obsession, and the inevitable body dissatisfaction. When we eat for health and not body size, we can become curious about how we physically feel after eating foods and begin to make food choices that either nourish our bodies (i.e., provide energy, support the ability to manage a chronic illness) or nourish our souls (i.e., connecting over coffee and snacks with friends, celebrating a birthday with cake). When we honor our bodies and move away from manipulating them, we are pursuing not only physical health, but emotional, social, and mental health as well,” says Beth Rosen, MS, RD, CDN.
6. Build healthy habits. “Good habits are what will get you to better health, which is usually the real goal anyway. If eating more fruits and vegetables is your goal, for example, focus on all the ways you can do that. Make it enjoyable. Find new foods to try, new recipes to experiment with. Just pay attention to the process to learn what you like, what you don’t like, what you can do differently to make it more pleasurable and sustainable,” says Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, author of Prediabetes: A Complete Guide.
7. Nourish yourself. “Nourish is a word I use often, and although it usually pertains to food it means so much more. Don’t get me wrong, what we eat plays an integral role in our overall health and that sentiment will by no means be abandoned on this new journey. But, I have learned that healthy eating is less about counting calories and “good” versus “bad” foods and more about self-love. When we love ourselves, we are able to simplify our relationship with food!” says Katie Cavuto, RDN.
8. Eat foods that make you feel good. “I call doughnuts ‘crispy crime’ because I feel lousy after eating one. Eat food that makes you feel energized. For me, apples with peanut butter and a dash of cinnamon beats a doughnut,” says Lisa Andrews, RDN, owner of Sound Bites Nutrition LLC.
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