Forget Diets, Forget Rules: Practical Tips from a Dietitian

Many so-called nutrition experts tell you to cut out entire food groups or focus on just a few “superfoods.” While it’s true that some foods offer more nutrient bang for your buck, it’s really how we put all those foods together on a plate that makes the difference.

Healthy eating isn’t about a rigid set of rules; it can be quite flexible. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I neither preach nor practice perfection. My focus is on helping you find healthy changes that fit your life – small changes that stick.

Start with Your Motivation

Whatever sparks your interest in eating better – whether a milestone moment, a visit to your doctor or simply setting a great example for your family – embrace that and get educated. Small changes can have big impacts. The foods we chose can help prevent chronic disease including Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Eating healthy can also reduce your risk of certain types of cancer. And of course, choosing the right foods in the right combinations can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Discover MyPlate

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-20 are designed to help Americans build a healthier diet. You may have already seen the guidelines in practice with the popular tools of MyPlate and MiPlato. These colorful illustrations show the right mix of food for a healthier present and a healthier future: low-fat and fat-free dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein – three times a day.

Put It into Practice

  • Focus on Nutrient-Rich Foods. Everything you eat and drink matters, but foods aren’t necessarily good or bad. The important thing is to focus first on foods and beverages that are nutrient rich; filled with the vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients you need. Use MyPlate as your foundation to make sure you get those foods first.
  • Find Variety. The word diet is dreary; it shouldn’t be the focus of your food plan. Instead, healthy eating should be about exploration. Add new foods – vegetables and fruits – you’ve passed by before. Vary your protein options, adding more fish, beans or peas. Look toward your favorite dairy foods, too – a glass of milk offers 8 grams of high-quality protein along with eight other essential nutrients. Consider it nutrition by addition: find new foods that you love and that inspire you to keep eating healthy.
  • Cook More. Family meals make a difference when it comes to health and happiness. But with busy schedules, bringing everyone together around the table can be challenging. Find what works for your family, whether that be meal planning at the beginning of the week, cooking in batches or bringing your kids into the kitchen to help with the prep. There’s a solution for every family. Busy nights? Consider gathering for breakfast instead. You are your kids’ biggest influence, so take time around the table to encourage their healthy habits, too.

Beyond the Table

Eating right is a big part of the health and wellness equation. Another key part is finding the time for physical activity. Making-over your exercise routine is as beneficial as making-over your plate. So get out there and get moving! With every new step you take and every carrot stick on your plate, embrace the fact that you are on the road to wellness.

Keep going strong:

By Katie McKee, MCN, RDN, LD

Katie has always loved teaching others about the power of nutrition. She has a background in journalism as a reporter, writer and editor and has been part of the Dairy MAX team since 2015. When she's not working, Katie enjoys cooking and spending time with her young son and family. Learn more about Katie

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