Mr. Pasadena says –“ I am happy to present to you one of the first in the series of blog post that are related to a healthier Pasadena and a healthier Mr. Pasadena. May I present to you guest blogger and my dear friend Melissa Burton, RD, CDE”
Trying to eat healthier – whether to lose weight or just feel better about yourself – means battling back the myths we’ve all heard time and time again.
It seems as if every month brings a new fad, a new buzzword, and a new magic fix in the world of healthy eating. Some of the myths are so well-entrenched that we take them as dietary gospel.
This isn’t a game you can afford to lose. Your health, and your body, demand that you debunk those myths before they undermine your efforts to get healthier.
Dieting Equals Health
Putting yourself on a diet is a recipe for failure. Anyone who’s tried to lose weight can tell you tales of yo-yo weight gain and loss that goes on for years.
A “diet” is often a short-term mindset used to get to an end goal of “eating normally again”. “Being on a diet” fosters negativity and implies a sense of food restriction and deprivation.
Unless you make long-term overall health and eating – not weight loss – your primary goals, chances are excellent that you’ll boomerang back to excess weight. That also comes with emotional repercussions such as disappointment and shame, which makes it even more difficult to get healthy later on.
Healthy eating is a process where one learns about the balancing act of fueling the body, optimizing health and enjoying social activities (it can’t be denied that food is a part of socialization).
The Enemy Food Group
Unless you have been diagnosed by a doctor with a disease or an allergy exacerbated by a substance in food, there is no food group that should be avoided in it’s entirety (moral reasons excluded). For example:
- Carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables and starches) will not make you fat and avoiding them will not make you thin in the long term. Carbohydrates are required by the brain in order to function and if you do not eat them, your body will make them for you – even from your own muscle tissue.
- Gluten: a protein made from wheat, barley and rye that causes intestinal damage in people with Celiac Disease (~1% of the population)is the nutritional pariah of the moment. If you have not been diagnosed as having celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, you do not need to avoid these grain products to be healthy.
Yes, you should eat fewer processed foods such as snacks and fast food. But processed food is a fact of modern life, and it’s got a place in balancing healthy eating and your lifestyle.
If you have questions about how a specific food or nutrient may affect you, don’t be afraid to talk to a licensed health professional. Dietitians, doctors and nurses want to be your educator or coach – not your police officer.
Fresh Is Better Than Frozen
Fruits and vegetables are often-flash frozen at peak ripeness to retain many nutrients that get lost after harvest and transport to your local grocery store. Fresh fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, are often picked before being fully ripe and therefore may not achieve their intended amount of vitamins and nutrients. If that’s the case, your frozen fare may well be healthier than what’s in the produce aisle.
If you’re buying frozen, look for packages with the USDA “U.S. Fancy” shield, indicating the contents are the best size, shape and color; vegetables with this mark are more nutrient-rich than the lower grades “U.S. No. 1” or “U.S. No. 2.”
Your rule of thumb should be this: if in-season buy fresh and ripe; if off-season, buy frozen and microwave or steam to retain water soluble nutrients.
You Need A Juice Cleanse Or Detox
The human body has it’s own cleansing and detoxification system already in place: your liver, kidneys and spleen. There are no juices, pills or powders that can make them work any better.
Juice is an easy way to deliver vitamins, minerals and fluid into your body. Unfortunately, juices are often higher in calories and have very little fiber. Fiber helps you feel full and is very important for bowel regularity (solid waste removal). Without ample fiber in your diet, you’re robbing your body of the essential elements of that cleansing process.
What’s better than that trendy juice cleanse? Eat your fruits and vegetables and for hydration, and drink still or sparkling water – not juice or soda.
Salads Are Always A Good Choice
Salads when done correctly are great food choices, but restaurant fare is usually laden with fat and sodium. Take a close look at what is on top of the lettuce and other vegetables before placing your order to ensure a healthier choice.
If you see “crispy” (read: fried) chicken, cheese, creamy dressing, tortilla chips/croutons/bacon bits, think again.
Look for grilled meats, minimal cheese, and get the dressing on the side. For healthy fats, look for 1-2 Tbsp of sunflower seeds or low-salt roasted nuts for flavor.
When you’re at home, sprinkle 1-2 Tbsp. of high flavored cheeses like blue or feta and keep the dressing to a minimum. One great trick is to dip your fork in dressing, then spear your salad bite to get the right amount of taste without loading up on needless calories.
Low-Fat/Fat-Free Options Are Healthier
Fat is necessary for energy and structural components in our bodies. Some fats are healthier than others (unsaturated and polyunsaturated are healthy while saturated fats are not), but that doesn’t mean all fat is bad.
If fat is removed from food, it must be replaced with something else. Often, it’s sugar or other additives for flavor or mouth feel.
Rather than loading up on sugar or additives, enjoy smaller portions of a full fat choice rather than settle for a less-tasty substitute. Those low-fat/no-fat options do nothing but create disappointment or deprivation.
There is one exception to that rule: dairy products – there are low fat and skim milk/yogurt choices available that are just as delicious (and often times healthier) than their full fat counterparts.
Remember – Avoid The “Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself” Mentality
Healthy eating is not undone with an overindulgent meal, snack, vacation or even holiday season. Embracing the concept of healthy eating implies balance.
Our bodies require that we eat and drink multiple times a day. Sometimes we overindulge – that’s human nature.
The good news is that there’s always the next meal to engage in healthier food/drink choices – not the next day, week, month or year. Just as foods should not be classified as “good” or “bad” (but some foods provide more health benefits than others), You’re not “good” or “bad” for eating certain foods or hitting a certain number (or direction) on a scale.
Your body is the only one you get for the rest of your life. Treat it that way and you’ll be on the path to healthy eating.
Melissa Burton, RD, CDE, a recently-transplanted New Yorker, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator living and working in the Pasadena area. She writes at TheValentineRD.com about food, fitness, family and Duran Duran. You can also find her on Twitter.