In senior year of college, while pursuing a business degree, I enjoyed reading fitness magazines, juicing, working out, and counting calories (Yes, I liked counting calories). I began to shed an extra layer of fat and became fascinated with nutrition. In fact, I loved nutrition so much that I decided to pursue a second degree in it and added 3 1/2 more years of school (not to mention school debt $$$) to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). Over the years I have continued my love affair with nutrition and I am always on the hunt for the latest nutrition research. As I gather new information I have noticed that my health habits have changed over the years. Here is how being a dietitian has changed my health habits.
1. I No Longer Count Calories- When I first started my nutrition endeavor I thought counting calories was a must. How could you keep your weight under control if you did not know how many calories you were eating? Well it is actually easier than I thought. I realized that calorie counting did not always equate to good nutrition. For instance, I would buy protein bars and packaged foods because there was a nutrition label on them. I could easily add these foods towards my total daily calorie intake. However, when I prepared my own foods from scratch it was much more difficult to count calories. With apps such as myfitnesspal.com it is possible to compute these equations but truly a pain in butt. I stopped counting calories because it was not a way to live and I was discouraged from eating homemade real food.
2. I Buy Organic Whole Milk Products- I used to buy skim milk. Why? Because it is lower in calories. Once again, calories were governing my food choices. I have since switched to organic whole milk dairy products. I know this is a debatable topic because there is lots of conflicting evidence out there on whole milk versus low-fat dairy. We all tend to find evidence that supports what we want to believe. For me, I believe in organic whole milk products! I tend to favor foods that come in their more natural form. Some studies show that whole milk helps keep you lean while other studies have suggested that low-fat dairy may affect a woman’s hormone levels (and not in a good way!). Overall, I keep my dairy intake to 1-2 servings/day and I do not feel that the extra saturated fat and calories are harming my health.
3. I Eat Local Eggs- In college I used to shy away from eggs. Why you ask? You guessed it! Because of the extra calories and fat. I would eat an egg white omelet to avoid all the extra fat and calories. But the yolk is where is where all nutrients are like Vitamin E, Vitamin A and choline! Local eggs tend to be from chickens that graze on pasture as opposed to being grain feed. These eggs have higher vitamin content and twice the amount of omega 3’s than store bought eggs. I am fortunate enough to have 3 hens of my own and my sister-in-law gives us extra eggs when she can. We are so egg-cited to have farm fresh eggs! ?
4. I No Longer Juice- While I was growing up my dad would pay me an allowance to juice for him in the morning. I would put carrots, apples, celery and beets into the Champion Juicer and create delicious concoctions. As I began focusing on my health during college I bought a Jack LaLanne Juicer. I was stoked! I put everything in it and loved the fresh tasting juice in the morning. I thought it was a healthy option. Then I realized I was putting a lot of apples and beets in it, which was essentially sugar without the fiber to fill me up. Yes, it had vitamins and minerals in it, but I was missing a key opportunity to get more fiber into my diet. Plus, juicing gets really expensive! I chose to start eating my veggies more and when I did want to drink them I placed them into a Vitamix to help keep the fiber. To learn more about the benefits of fiber click here. Including vegetables at meal times also made me more satisfied with my meals and lowered the glycemic load.
5. I Eat Fish at Least Twice Weekly– Other than the occasional tuna sandwich I never ate fish. It was not because I didn’t like, it was because I did not think about it. Then over the years I became aware of how important omega 3 fatty acids are for the body. Our body does not produce its own omega 3’s and we must get them from our food sources. The best way to get these fatty acids is through cold water fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna and sardines. Albacore tuna contains higher levels of mercury so I tend to choose this option less frequently. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on sardines
6. I Listen to My Body- After reading books, such as Intuitive Eating and Am I Hungry?, I began developing a relationship with my body. I ate when I was hungry and became more in tuned when I was full. I no longer feel the need to eat everything on my plate. When I was counting calories, sometimes I would be starving but felt guilty about eating more because I was already at my maximum amount for the day. On other days I would eat more even though I was not hungry because I had 200 more calories left that I could eat. Our bodies need more calories some days than others. Listening to my body helps me regulate what I need when I need it.
7. I Don’t Exercise to Punish Myself- This is a big one! When I ate something that was not considered healthy, like a piece of cake, I would estimate how many calories were in it. Then I would tell myself that I was going to burn it off at the gym. This way of thinking made exercise a chore! Now I exercise for the many benefits including STRESS RELIEF!! Exercise has become a positive outlet for my well-being, instead of something “I have to do” because I ate chocolate cake. Moving my body has become a pleasant experience.
8. I Aim for Balance- As I am sure you can tell from my blog, I believe balance is key! Each meal I aim to include a protein, a starchy food (carbs), vegetables and some healthy fat. Including a variety of different foods makes it more likely I will meet my nutritional quota for the day. The plate method is a useful tool to include balance and variety. I also feel that nutrition is only one part of the health puzzle. It is important to strive for balance in all areas of my life including relationships, work, and play time Developing balance in my life helps me fight off any unnecessary stress (which is terrible for my health).
9. I Don’t Expect Perfection- It is easy for me to get caught up with rules and goals. But I have realized there is no perfect diet and there is no perfect life. I will continue to seek for balance, but I understand that sometimes it is okay to be off kilter. This dance is what makes my life perfectly imperfectly balanced
There are actually many more habits I have changed over the years, but it is difficult to include them all. Maybe in another blog Comment below on changes you have made in your life. Till next time, K