National Nutrition Month - "Put Your Best Fork Forward"

National Nutrition Month® - 2017

“National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  The campaign is designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.  “Put Your Best Fork Forward” is the theme this year – encouraging everyone to make small changes over time that eventually will make a big impact on one’s health. 

Last week I had a patient come in to my office and literally wanted a quick fix for weight loss (not the first patient to do this, but just my most recent).  She continued to go on and list every (and I mean EVERY) excuse in the book as to why she couldn’t lose weight.  Today’s theme is not talking about other possible hindrances in one’s weight loss journey (i.e. hypothyroidism, depression, etc), however, she had a response for every suggestion that I was making.  She was a high intense person and was SUPER stressed with work and being a single mom.  I simply stopped and asked her how she was fueling herself with all this work that she was doing.  She had described to me going long periods of time without eating, she was a realtor and was always on the road and didn’t want to eat food out and about as she knows it’s not the healthiest.  She continued with more excuses/responses.  I explained to her that I would make lots of suggestions to her but I only needed her to pick ONE thing to work on to improve upon.  She couldn’t believe that I told her to make just one change.  I explained to her that the way I saw it is that one small change would be the most beneficial to her – it wouldn’t seem out of reach, it wouldn’t stress her out even more, and she was more likely to succeed.  Am I right?!  As the session continued I do believe she began to break down some barriers and realized that she has been putting too much pressure on herself and trying to do it ALL at once, and with no success I might add.  Her trouble area was rushing out the door without breakfast.  I suggested to her to have her son help prep some overnight oats for them both.  That way she could still rush out the door, but at least have breakfast on hand (not go long periods of time without eating, setting the tone for the day, etc).  She liked the idea. 

Here are a few versions of overnight oats that I’ve done recently.  I do prefer a little more milk with each bite, so mine might look a little “soupier” than you might like (I add an extra ½ cup of milk the following morning).  But the recipe is simple: ½ cup rolled oats, ½ cup skim milk (or nut milk alternative of your choosing – aim to look for one that’s had pea protein added in, it ups the protein per cup of milk), 1-2 tbsp of any nut butter, ~1/2 cup of fruit (natural sweetener – no added sugar), and ~1 tbsp of chia, hemp, or flax seed.  This overnight oats is a game changer.  Not only are you having breakfast (which is important) but you’re also starting the day off with whole grains, healthy plant-based protein (from the nuts/nut butter), and healthy fats (from the nuts/nut butter and the seeds – chia, hemp, and flax) that will fuel and sustain you through the morning!  My patient I described wasn’t having breakfast and she wasn’t having nearly enough whole grains/fiber in her diet.  So little did she know she wasn’t just changing one thing but two. Ha!  All jokes aside, I really want my patients to start making these types of changes and implementing them for life – not just for some quick fix weight-loss diet.  My patient did like this idea and this was the goal of what we started to have her work on in this next week.

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The other area that she wanted to focus on after implementing breakfast was dinner.  She knows she needs to cook healthy meals, but the bottom line is that she stated she didn’t even have time to go to the store.  Well, well, well.  Enter meal delivery systems.  They are ALL the rage right now.  I tried Hello Fresh recently.  I wasn’t sponsored to do so and this isn’t an advertisement.  I’m just speaking from experience of what meal delivery system I tried – please do your own research and see which one fits best for you – prices, menus, etc.  I opted for the vegetarian option and all the items were dropped off on a Monday afternoon.  It had 3 boxes of all the ingredients for three meals.  In essence each meal is supposed to make enough for two meals – mine ended up making three meals for two of the meal boxes.  Each meal was ready in less than 30 minutes and the flavor on all three was out of this world! Granted I only tried a week, but the truth is you can check the menus out and see what sounds good to you.  If this patient’s problem is that she can’t get to the store?  Hello!!  All the grocery items are there ready for you to go.  My patient after talking with her more was stopping each night to pick up food from a local eatery close to home, supposedly healthy.  Stopping each night for food?  And she’s pressed for time?  Her other struggle was finding something her son liked each night, walking the store not knowing if what she was eating was healthy (because of that health halo I do believe many patients are confused at the stores and don’t know what to buy).  I suggested to her trying a meal delivery system.  Sure she’s tired at night and doesn’t want to have to come home and cook – who does?  There are even meal delivery places that already deliver the food prepared – I told her that would be a decision she would have to make and then possibly transition to using a food delivery system that had all the ingredients.  I use the recipes I received from Hello Fresh still to this day – they’ve made the repertoire of “keepers” in my house – so as I told my patient the meal delivery system could be a great start for her to build on and then have viable options to keep with in the future.  She did like this idea and said she was going to do her research to see which one she would use.

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The last area that my patient really needed to work on was time management/stress management (as she called it).

The last area that my patient really needed to work on was time management/stress management (as she called it).  She doesn’t have enough time in the day and that stresses her out.  She is consumed by work, so much so that it affects her time that she spends with her son, her exercise regimen, and simple downtime (she has none).  I’d say this fits the bill of most Americans, she’s not alone.  The goal for her is to simply find ways in which to improve the situation.  One thing we thought about was having her workout with her son.  She didn’t think this was ideal as she likes to have her alone time working out, but the truth is she needs to work out and so does he.  They’re both not exercising and while she might enjoy the time alone from her son she’s also not been spending enough time with him as it is.  Just me looking in from the outside, easier said than done I told her.  She did like the idea and began to think of a few outdoor activities they could do together as a start.  While National Nutrition Month might be more weighted on nutrition, physical activity is a key, critical component when it comes to overall health.  I know in my own experience when I exercise I’m less stressed.  I believe that incorporating exercise will help this patient release a little bit of the tension/stress that she is feeling.  She might feel pressed for time and think that she can’t fit it in, but that’s the hamster wheel that she’s on – she feels like she can’t get off for even one second, when in reality, exercising will help her overall well-being. 

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Small changes make a big impact over time.  Aiming to have breakfast daily, opting for 100% whole rolled oats instead of instant oats, or exercising a few days a week, when implemented, can make a big impact toward improving your overall health.  Drastic changes, like eliminating entire food groups, or adopting a major shift in diet are not necessary to be successful.  In fact, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans actually suggest “starting with small changes in order to make healthier lasting changes you can enjoy.”

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is promoting this message of starting small this National Nutrition Month.  It’s a reminder to us all that “each bite counts and that making just small adjustments can add up over time.”  One step at a time, “Putting Your Best Fork Forward”, to create healthy habits that last a lifetime.

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