5 Tips for a Happy Diet

Years ago, while on my way to high school one morning, I heard a segment on a radio talk show that has stuck with me ever since. The station asked people to call in and share questions they are usually asked after informing someone of their job. A whole slew of people called: policemen, fire fighters, baristas, dentists, bus drivers, servers. There was always one question that most people were asked specific to their career or job. At the time, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life – but believe me, I had a ton of ideas. Some of which included: veterinarian, news anchor, camera woman, dental hygienist, doctor, therapist, pharmacist, high school math teacher, softball coach…and that’s just the short list! I don’t know why it stuck with me for so long, but ever since I heard that radio segment, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Now that I’ve settled on a career and am pursuing a bachelor of science in dietetics, I finally know what my magic question will be: “What should I be eating?”

I honestly wish I had a quarter for every time I was asked this question, and I’m still only in college! This is a question I, and all dietetics majors, will probably need to get used to. It’s such a general question that it’s hard to give one, straight-forward answer. There are tons of variables that influence what you “should” be eating, such as personal preference, medical history, physical activity level, gender, age, and current diet. Last year, I took a basic introduction to nutrition course. Among a plethora of useful knowledge, we learned about five key characteristics for a diet (and by diet, I mean an eating lifestyle, not a popular trend advertised to assist in weight loss). Keeping these five keys in mind at each meal may be helpful in achieving a healthy eating lifestyle.

Adequacy

Adequacy refers to consuming foods that provide quality nutrients to your body. Some examples of adequacy are eating a baked potato with skin instead of potato chips, or choosing spinach over iceberg lettuce. The baked potato with skin and spinach provide more of a nutrient-packed punch than their counterparts.

Variety

Switching up meals, snacks, and drinks is one of the best ways to ensure consumption of many nutrients. It’s very easy to eat the same meals often, especially for busy college students. Try your best to plan meals ahead of time – this allows you to focus on expanding your meal horizons and get out of a rut!

Balance

Most of us have a favorite food group – mine’s fruit! I could only eat fruit all day and be content. Vegetables on the other hand, that’s my weakness. The easiest way to think of balance is eating proper portions of each food group at every meal. MyPlate is a GREAT tool for this! Here’s a great visual from their website:myplate

Anyone notice the 5 keys in the visual? Eh, eh?

Calorie Control

This is the most straight forward of all the keys. Eating large portions of calorie dense foods will raise total calorie consumption. However, just like how each person’s diet is unique, each person’s calorie needs are unique. To get a good idea of what your personalized calorie consumption should be check out USDA’s SuperTracker.

Moderation

All of the five keys closely relate to each other, but I think moderation is the glue that holds all of the keys together. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single, perfect food that will provide the body with all of its nutrient needs. This is where moderation comes in. Moderation can be thought of as a combination of portion size and consumption frequency. It doesn’t refer to only treats, either. Being conscious of how much and how often you eat a certain food will help maintain balance and variety in your diet.

Phew! You made it! Thanks for hanging with me all the way through the post – it was a long one this time. If you’re looking to improve your own eating lifestyle, consider these five characteristics with each meal: adequacy, variety, balance, calorie control, and moderation. Questions or comments? We’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comment section below.

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Posted on October 17, 2013, in Nutrition/Culinary Corner, Seven Dimensions of Wellness and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great reminder, great blog post

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