Dietitian, Alexa Schmidt, gives tips on how to eat healthier.
Dietitian: Alexa Schmidt
Q: I’ve resolved to eat healthier in 2023 but am new to this way of fueling my mind and body. What’s the best way to get started so that I can reach my goal?
A: The New Year is the perfect time to set goals and start on a path to eating well for good health and optimal nutrition. So, what exactly does that mean? Simply stated, it means having nutritious, balanced meals and snacks that you enjoy and that keep you energized and satisfied throughout the day. Sounds simple enough, right? And it can be—if you keep these three principles in mind. Let’s get started!
- When your favorite nutrient rich foods are readily accessible, it’s easier to enjoy balanced meals and snacks. One great way to be prepared is to stock your refrigerator and pantry with your favorite items from each of these six food groups: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, healthy fats, and lean protein. Once you have a well-stocked fridge and pantry, you can create easy, balanced meals and snacks. Choose three or four food groups per meal (for example, salmon with brown rice and spinach) and one or two food groups for a snack (like a handful of almonds and a bunch of grapes). Of course, there are many options from each food group, but this list can serve as inspiration while grocery shopping.
- Whole grains: oatmeal, brown rice, air-popped popcorn, whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, whole grain crackers
- Fruits (fresh, frozen, dried or canned in natural juices with no added sugar): apples, oranges, berries, grapes, bananas, raisins, and applesauce
- Vegetables (fresh, frozen, or canned): spinach, broccoli, carrots, green beans, peppers, zucchini, squash
- Dairy/Dairy alternatives: skim milk, low-fat or nonfat yogurt or Greek yogurt, low-fat cheese, soy milk/yogurt
- Healthy fats: almonds, walnuts, nut butter, olive oil, olives, and avocados
- Lean protein: skinless chicken and turkey, ham, roast beef, salmon, tuna, beef sirloin, pork tenderloin, eggs, black beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, edamame
- Eat every three to four hours. It is important to consistently fuel your body throughout the day. Eating every three to four hours is a great way to keep you fueled, focused, and energized. It helps ensure adequate nutrients that help your body and mind function best. To prevent a busy schedule from getting in the way of consistent eating, I suggest identifying a day each week to prep meals and snacks, so you always have options at the ready on hectic days.
- Pick the right portions for you. Every food can fit into a healthy eating plan. There are no good or bad foods if you fuel with portions that feel good in your body. Here are a few easy ways to approximate portion sizes with your hands:
- Fist = 1 cup grains, fruit, or vegetables
- Cupped hand = ½ cup grains, fruits, vegetables, or beans
- Palm = 3 ounces meat
- Thumb = 1 tablespoon nut butter or olive oil
I believe that taking small steps is the key to enjoying the benefits of lifelong healthy eating, so I encourage you to set one specific health goal each week to get you started, rather than overhauling all your habits at once. Use these three healthy eating principles to guide you as you make small adjustments like enjoying a balanced breakfast (i.e., eggs, toast, fruit cup) if you aren’t already doing so. All of this will keep you excited about the healthy changes ahead and keep you on your new path. Wishing you happy healthy eating this year and every year!
Alexa Schmidt is a registered dietitian with Binghamton University Dining Services by Sodexo. She works to enhance the health and well-being of students, faculty, and staff on campus through nutrition consultations, guest lectures, nutrition programs, education materials, special diets (for celiac disease or food allergies, for example), and more. Schmidt is a member of Binghamton University’s Healthy Campus Initiative serving as Nutrition Subcommittee Chair. She is also an adjunct faculty member for the health and wellness studies department, for which she teaches online nutrition courses.