by Janel Arbon, RDN
March is National Nutrition month! The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics invites everyone to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthy eating and physical activity habits.
How should you build a healthy meal and fuel your body? We read a million things online about what is healthy and what is not, and all the information seems contradictory. However, building a healthy meal really is simple! The following are some easy steps from Janel Arbon, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Moab Regional Hospital, to start eating healthy.
First off is portion control. Controlling your portions and the amount of food you eat is essential to developing healthy eating habits. Start with a nine or 10-inch plate to help you watch your serving sizes. By managing your calorie intake, you can prevent over-eating and gaining weight.
The second is vegetables! Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables; these could be raw or cooked! You might try steamed broccoli and carrots or a spinach salad with bell peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Instead of using heavy store-bought salad dressings, add a squeeze of lemon or lime or add vinegar and olive oil to your salads. Non-starchy vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals, low in calories (to help you maintain weight), and high in fiber, so they are filling and helpful to your digestive system!
Third, find a healthy protein to make up ¼ of the plate. Choose a lean source of protein, which can be plant-based (tofu) or animal based. Lean animal proteins include skinless chicken or turkey (breast or white meat preferred), fish, pork loin, 90% lean beef, or eggs. The way you prepare your protein makes a difference. Baking or grilling are preferred cooking methods over deep frying or frying. Proteins are made of building blocks called amino acids; these amino acids help build and repair muscles and bones and help produce hormones and enzymes, all while providing energy for you!
Fourth, add a carbohydrate or starchy food for the other ¼ part of your plate. When choosing carbohydrates, it is best to choose a whole grain.
Examples are brown rice, whole grain pasta, whole wheat roll, sweet potato, etc. Whole grains provide more essential nutrients that your body needs. Carbohydrates also provide the body with glucose, which converts to energy to help support your physical activity. Carbohydrates are typically your primary energy source.
Fifth, add some dairy. Low-fat dairy sources include an eight-ounce glass of skim or 1% milk, soy milk, and fat-free or low-fat yogurt. These choices provide you with calcium, which promotes healthy bones and teeth! Calcium also plays a role in blood clotting, muscle contractions, heart rhythms, and nerve functions.
Sixth, add some fresh fruit for dessert. Fruit provides essential vitamins to your diet and is full of water which helps you stay hydrated. Fruit also has antioxidants, which help slow the aging process and reduce your risk for cancer. Fruit is also high in fiber, preventing constipation and lowering your risk for heart disease.
Compliment your meal with a beverage by choosing water or a non-caloric drink. Choosing something non-caloric will keep you from getting unnecessary empty calories.
Lastly, avoid extra fat. Monounsaturated fats (like olive oil, avocados, and nuts) are healthier fat choices. They should be used over other high-fat foods. High-fat foods increase cholesterol levels and increase your risk for heart-related illnesses. Don’t use heavy gravies or sauces that add to your calorie and fat intake. Eating steamed broccoli is great, but topping it with a lot of cheese sauce makes it much less healthy. Instead, try sprinkling the broccoli with a bit of parmesan cheese. It is still delicious but doesn’t have excessive calories.
These steps will aid in creating a healthy eating routine. Moab Regional Hospital’s Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Janel Arbon, can help you develop healthy habits that are sustainable and unique to your health needs. To make an appointment with Janel, ask your primary care provider for a referral.