Ask Our Dietitian
Dietitian: Alexa Schmidt
Q: I’ve resolved to lose weight in 2015 but am new to healthy eating. 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 healthy eating. So what exactly is healthy eating? Simply stated, healthy eating means having nutritious, balanced meals and snacks that keep you energized and satisfied throughout the day. Sounds simple enough, right? And it is—if you follow these three principles. Let’s get started!
1. When healthy food is readily accessible, it’s easier to make smart choices. The best way to guarantee that you’ll eat healthy food 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 meat, fish, and beans. 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: skim milk, low-fat or nonfat yogurt or Greek yogurt, low-fat cheese
- Healthy fats: almonds, walnuts, nut butter, olive oil, olives, and avocados
- Lean meat, fish, and beans: skinless chicken and turkey, ham, roast beef, salmon, tuna, beef sirloin, pork tenderloin, eggs, black beans, chickpeas, lentils
2. Eat every three to four hours. You need to consistently fuel your body throughout the day. This will not only boost your metabolism and fight off food cravings but will also help you be more productive, focused, and energized. Plan to eat something every three to four hours and never skip a meal—it’s one of the worst weight-loss mistakes you can make. That’s because skipping meals can leave you feeling hungry, which often leads to sugar cravings. To prevent a busy schedule from getting in the way of healthy eating, I suggest identifying a day each week to prep meals and snacks so you always have healthy options at the ready on hectic days.
3. Pick the right portions. Every food can fit into a healthy eating plan in moderation. There are no good or bad foods if you stick to the proper portion sizes. 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, nuts, 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 healthy eating 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 eating breakfast every day 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 and its Eating Awareness Committee, and she serves as an adjunct faculty member for the health and wellness studies department, for which she teaches online nutrition courses.