Registered Dietitian and Fitness Coach at Midtown Athletic Club Chicago Jenny Maloney

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?
I challenge you not to go on any diets and, instead, just try to make small lifestyle changes one at a time. Write down a list of obstacles that you have or have had in the past and try to conquer them one at a time. For example, if you dine out too much, set a goal that you will only dine out two times a week for a month. Then, once this is a habit or a lifestyle change, move on to conquering the next obstacle.

What rule of thumb would you recommend to people when they are bombarded with information regarding “food trends?”
Ask yourself if this food trend or diet is something you can follow for the rest of your life. If a diet restricts multiple food groups or restricts calories too much, you will probably lose weight but that weight loss won’t last. However, if the trend seems like it makes sense and isn’t extreme, it might be worth checking out.

Are there really any benefits to taking a multivitamin? And are there any possible negative effects to taking one?
Research shows mixed results, but the main takeaway is that there can be benefits to taking a multivitamin and that it has no harmful effects. I recommend getting your blood work done to find out if you are deficient in any vitamins or minerals. Then, your doctor and dietitian can recommend how to supplement individually for your needs. There is always a risk of vitamin toxicity, so make sure you are talking to your doctor and dietitian to see if you may be overdosing. As we know, the best way to get vitamins and minerals is through food so always remember that taking a multivitamin is not a substitute for healthy eating.

How can people make sustainable changes?
There are many ways to impact the environment with your food choices. Try to buy local from farmer’s markets, CSAs (community supported agriculture), and co-ops. This helps support local farms and conserves fuel from transporting and shipping foods. Also, try to eat more plant-based meals and less meat. Eating more plants will help significantly reduce the carbon emissions and waste byproducts that end up in our oceans and as seafood byproducts. It also helps with water efficiency. And try to eat more mindfully – you will eat less and hopefully healthier and set you up for long-term success.

What should people, regardless of age, take daily? What should they eliminate from their diet today?
People should center their diet on vegetables, fruits, whole grains along with healthy fats like olive oil and avocadoes. Everyone is different so it’s hard to say what everyone should be taking daily, but the one thing that is consistent is water. Everyone needs water for his or her body and mind to function efficiently. Also, try to eliminate processed foods and added sugars as much as they can. It’s hard to do, but eating more real foods and less processed ones will get most people to their goals – whether it’s feeling better, weight loss, gut health, disease prevention and more.

What ways can families cut back on unhealthy fats?
Families can cut back on unhealthy fats by focusing on eating the right foods: veggies, fruits, whole grains, seeds, nuts, dairy, lean meats and fish. Try to eat healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds and olive oil. Most of the bad fats are in unhealthy foods like fast food and processed foods. It’s also okay to have real butter and fats from real natural foods in moderation.

What tips would you share for motivating people to continue eating healthy throughout the year?
Find a long-term lifestyle that works for you. You need to plan ahead to be successful. Grocery shop and meal prep often. Also, be realistic. You can’t eat perfect 100 percent of the time, so work in “cheat foods” to your diet at least a few times a week. Keep the cheats small and balance them with healthy foods the rest of that day. And don’t be so hard on yourself; tomorrow is always a new day to reset and restart.

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