Clinical Nutrition Manager at Norwegian American Hospital Natalie Knoll MS, RD, LSN

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

By: Ashmar Mandou

January has become the notorious month to begin anew; when people revive their healthy lifestyle. This year, how would you advise people to rethink their relationship with food?
In a society where we tend to be bombarded with messages and images of food and weight loss, it is not uncommon to develop a negative relationship with food. Additionally, there are many different ways individuals may find themselves in an “unhealthy” relationship with food including obsessing over food/health, tying food to emotions, or creating strict rules and regulations around food. If you feel you may have an unhealthy relationship with food here are few quick tips to consider.

  • Don’t give goods labels – avoid viewing food as either being “good” or “bad”, “allowed” or “not allowed”. View having a healthy balanced diet as a lifestyle where all foods can fit in the right moderation.
  • Keep your goals realistic – setting drastic targets can often lead to feelings of failure and frustration if not met.
    Eat mindfully – eat slowly, enjoy each mouthful, and recognize feelings of fullness.
  • Don’t use food to manage stress or emotion – many times we turn to food for comfort or a distraction. Ask yourself why you’re hungry; has it been a few hours since your last meal? Are you stressed? Are you tired?
  • What rule of thumb would you recommend to people when they are bombarded with information regarding “food trends?”
    There are many food trends or “fad diets” that individuals take on and yes, in short-term, end up eating less carbohydrates, no meat, less sugar, eating before 8pm, etc., and losing weight.  However, according to many studies, fad diets or focusing on specific food trends tend to restrict or over-promote important nutrients and food groups which mean you may miss out on the protective health effects that a balanced eating plan provides. 

    Are there really any benefits to taking a multivitamin? And are there any possible negative effects to taking one?
    Taking a daily dose of any of the single minerals, vitamins or multivitamin/mineral supplements may seem like a clear way to be “healthy”. However, according to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “nutritional needs should be met primarily from foods. Individuals should aim to meet their nutrient needs through healthy eating patterns that include nutrient-dense foods which contain essential vitamins and minerals and also dietary fiber and other naturally occurring substances that may have positive health effects.” While there may be a need to supplement our diet at certain times in our lives, the safety of taking a supplement also needs to be considered. Too much of some vitamins and minerals can cause health issues; and, therefore, recommended levels should not be exceeded.

    What should people, regardless of age, take daily? What should they eliminate from their diet today?
    Many people believe that in order to be healthy they must begin to eliminate foods from their diet. This sounds daunting and is not a great first step.  Instead, how about choosing to eat 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.  By eating more fruits and veggies, you are likely to consume less calories and feel fuller.  If you are more of a planner, go for packing lunch every day.  A study at Tuft’s University showed the relationship between eating out and weight gain is very straightforward: The more frequently you eat out, the more likely you are to carry excess pounds. 

    What ways can families cut back on unhealthy fats?
    Diets high in saturated fats are known to increase weight, lipids and blood pressure. Rather than cut out fats all together, try replacing saturated and trans fats with healthier fats from foods like olive oils, avocados, walnuts, and flax seeds or a healthier, balanced diet. Adding foods like this will also increase your fiber intake which can help keep you feeling satisfied and help stabilize your blood sugar levels.

    What tips would you share for motivating people to continue eating healthy throughout the year?
    Remind yourself of your goals and check-in on them at least monthly.  Sustainable lifestyle changes may not happen with the first go around.  Strategies may need to be adjusted or you may need to enlist additional help.  Be honest and keep it real. Most importantly, remind yourself of how sticking to your goals will improve your quality of life, and know that small changes can make a big difference!

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