Be gentle with yourself when making dietary changes.

Be gentle with yourself when making dietary changes.

This story was originally published on the Winter 2022 issue of Providence St. Mary Medical Health Matters.


In this article:

  • Providence St. Mary Medical Dietitian Intern Alyssa Skinner and Clinical Nutrition Manager Amanda Fenn discuss how to best achieve healthy eating goals.

  • USDA’s MyPlate, the food pyramid’s version, remains the best model for easily creating balanced meals.

  • Amanda Fenn touches on her thoughts on popular diets like Keto and intermittent fasting.

It’s that time of year when people often think about adopting healthier eating habits. However, it is important that you do not consider your daily food intake as a “diet”. Rather, if you decide to make changes, adopt realistic expectations that fit your personal lifestyle and dietary preferences. We spoke with Alyssa Skinner, a dietitian intern at Providence St. Mary Medical Center, and Amanda Fenn, the hospital’s clinical nutrition manager, about the best way to achieve your healthy eating goals.

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Reap benefits by making small changes

Can you offer a general idea to help people improve their diets?

Many people are looking for quick results and often take an all or nothing approach. Try to think more gradually and celebrate small changes, like remembering to add a cup of vegetables to a meal.

What foods make a balanced meal?

We recommend following My plate, the updated version of the USDA food pyramid, which breaks down the major groups to easily create a balanced meal. There are five categories: fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy products. Do your best to structure each meal to be similar to the proportions illustrated.

We have all heard the expression “everything in moderation”. How important is that?

People tend to be too strict with themselves. Allow yourself to have a reasonable portion of what you want. If you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, no food should be off limits. Occasionally you can eat that donut.

How can we practice portion control without weighing and measuring food?

A leading study has shown that simply by using a smaller plate, people tend to eat less. The smaller the plate, the larger the amount of food seems to be. Simply buying and using smaller plates and cups can make a big difference in eating less.

What are the most important things to look for on an ingredient label?

The first ingredient on the list is the main ingredient, but the second and third ingredients are also important.

Paying attention is essential

It’s also important to pay attention to added sugar and salt. What are the most serious health problems related to a person’s diet?

Heart disease is the most common health problem associated with diet. Many conditions related to heart disease can be improved and then maintained with a healthy diet and the right amount of exercise.

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Any thoughts on popular diets like keto or intermittent fasting?

You cannot follow these diets for life because they are not sustainable. Both force your body to burn its reserves, leading to a kind of starvation state. People follow these diets to lose weight quickly, but once you start eating normally again, you tend to gain the weight back right away.

Above all, be compassionate and forgiving with yourself. Everybody slips. The important thing is to get back to normal and keep a positive attitude.

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This information is not a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow the instructions of your healthcare professional.