March is National Nutrition Month and many nutrition professionals around the United States are using this as an opportunity to educate people within the community about good nutrition. It’s no secret that most people struggle to find good, sound nutrition advice. One would think with the advances in technology and our unlimited access to the web, it would be easy… The reality- it’s more difficult. People are bombarded with, “eat this, not that” propaganda. Self proclaimed food experts push unregulated, opinion based nutrition information to the public through various blogs, obtaining followers from all over the world through scare tactics- avoid GMO’s, eat organic, don’t eat beef or dairy, avoid gluten! What is a consumer to do?!?
As a “wanna be” nutrition professional, aspiring registered dietitian, and former trend follower, there are a few things I’ve learned over the years and I’ve created a list to hopefully assist you in your journey to finding a balanced diet.
- Everything in moderation. EVERYTHING. If you want to eat ice cream, eat the ice cream. If you want a cheeseburger, eat the cheeseburger. Don’t limit yourself, but most times, try and choose wholesome foods like lean meats, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Eating a bowl of ice cream once a week will not wreck havoc on your diet or your goals.
- Your diet is what you eat, not something you go on. Stop thinking about food as the enemy. Food is amazing! It supplies energy so we can live! Those carbohydrates everyone is so scared of, is the main energy source for that amazing brain of yours and the only energy source for some of your cells.
Food isn’t just energy. It’s a huge cultural and social aspect of our every day lives (and it tastes pretty good)! We meet friends for lunch, holidays are celebrated with food, and different cultures have specific types of foods they eat regularly. Don’t shy away from tradition or fun just because there are certain types of food involved. Feed your body. Don’t avoid food groups because you think they make you gain weight. Refer back to number one.
- Move a little bit more each day. You don’t have to be a triathlete to be healthy. Exercise and movement is just as important as eating a wholesome, balanced diet but you can incorporate it into your daily routine. Go on a walk, park further away, take the stairs, go on a hike, GET A PUPPY! Even little adjustments to your every day life can add more movement and more movement equals more muscle, more calories burned daily, better sleep, and overall well being.
- Don’t always trust everything you read on the internet… I know State Farm Insurance told us that “if it’s on the internet, it has to be true” but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Keyboard warriors all over the globe are taking to the web to fill our heads with information that they believe to be true. 90% of the time, they have no scientific evidence to back their claims. So, what is a consumer to do? Fortunately, there are credible websites to help you figure out what nutrition guidelines you should follow. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (www.eatright.org), Choose My Plate (www.choosemyplate.gov) U.S. Department of Agriculture (www.usda.gov), The Food and Drug Administration (www.FDA.org), and The World Health Organization (www.who.int) are just a few.
If you need further assistance or have a medical condition, find a registered dietitian in your area. They are qualified to assist you in creating a diet that will fit your lifestyle and goals.
- Buy local, if possible. I’ve never jumped on the GMO or organic bandwagon, but I do promote buying local. Not only are you helping your local farmers and ranchers, but you can take comfort in knowing that your food is less traveled and your carbon footprint is reduced. I don’t necessarily want to meet the cow I’m going to eat, but it is nice to meet the rancher that raised the cow I’m going to eat. Being from a big city, the closest I’ve been to a cow is a gallon of milk (kidding, I’ve been to petting zoos…). After moving to Southern New Mexico, I’ve had the pleasure of learning about farming and ranching in a way I would have never had the opportunity to before. The work and care that goes into raising animals and growing produce is nothing short of incredible. It really is a science and if you can support local farmers and ranchers, then do it!
- Last but certainly not less important- DON’T LET YOUR DIET RUN YOUR LIFE! Balance, moderation, wholesome food, movement, and FUN are the keys to a healthy, happy life. Don’t let your “diet” keep you from friends and family, celebrations, or vacations. Choose wholesome food 70-80% of the time and you’ll be just fine. Food certainly does rule a large part of our lives, but it shouldn’t be a determinant on how we live our lives.
Finding and maintaining balance in all aspects of your life is key. Never deprive yourself from all of the delicious food that you love so much but also try and eat wholesome foods the majority of the time. Experiment in the kitchen, try a new fruit or vegetable once a week, and get your family involved in preparing meals. Food will always be a large part of our lives, we should learn to enjoy it!
This guest post is written by Shannon Farkas, a fabulous student at New Mexico State University who is studying Dietetics.