Nutrition for the years not just New Year

As each New Year rolls in and we focus on our resolutions so many Americans vow to “diet.” And seriously, there are more “diets” out there than Carter has pills so how do we know what is really healthy and good for us and what is not? Although we often have good intentions, making lifestyle changes including dietary changes can be difficult.

Here is what our local Public Health Dietitian, Hannah Colby, has to say about healthy changes that you can actually stick to:


Don’t starve yourself. Add more veggies, whole grains and healthy fat. Having a healthy and balanced diet is the way to keep your body healthy and your mind sane. I don’t recommend counting points, calories, grams or anything else, but it is important to be aware of portion sizes.

Protein: When you think of protein, think of meat, fish and eggs. A good rule of thumb is to aim for eating a portion of protein equivalent to the thickness and circumference of the palm of your hand at meals (2-3 eggs, 4-6 oz. of chicken, beef or fish) and about half that amount for snacks.

Fat: Yes to healthy fats. Fat supports brain function, keeps us full and acts as a buffer for carbohydrates by slowing down their absorption into our bloodstream.

A good starting point is including two to three tablespoons of fat at every single time you eat meals and snacks. This could mean topping your salad with sliced avocado. Recommended fat sources: healthy fats are butter, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, cheese, olives, nuts, seeds and nut and seed butters to name a few. Not recommended: canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, vegetable oil, shortening and margarine. Also, any oil that has been hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated is a trans-fat.

Carbs: Start consuming more colorful, nutritious veggies and fruit into your diet. Get most of your carbohydrates from veggies and fruit. Think colorful carbs. In general, sticking to half cup of starchy vegetables (like corn, peas, beets, squash, yams and sweet potatoes) and fruit is a good place to start. With non-starchy vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and cucumbers) the portion size is pretty much unlimited. Switch from white bread to 100 percent whole grain products. Try to limit refined carbohydrates like cakes, cookies, pretzels, chips.


This one is hard for many people. But it is so important to get the most out of your mealtime experiences. Eating less comes more naturally when you listen to your body’s cues. Are you actually hungry? Or maybe you are dehydrated and need water? Listening to your body and really savoring your food is a great way to feel more satisfied with less food. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself if you mess it up, beating yourself up for a missed workout or piece of cake won’t be helpful.


For many of us we think about what diet we should be on. There are several scientific studies out there that show that dieting does not work, and in fact, can lead to unhealthier bodies that are prone to gain weight. Rejecting the diet mentality is a critical step in learning to trust your own body and nourish yourself based on your own inner wisdom.


You will never be able to stick with an exercise program if you don’t actually enjoy it. Shift your focus on how you feel as a result of the exercise, you will be much more likely to enjoy it and stick with it.


The most important idea behind this principle is that you have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. It is what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.

We all deserve a life without food rules, food restriction, guilt and shame so that we can focus on building a life of health and happiness.

I like the simplicity of this advice and especially resonate with honoring our health. Just take baby steps, one small change, then one small change, over and over again will get us to big results over time. We only need to be focused, patient, and consistent even if it is easier said than done.

Cynthia Bennett is the director of Aitkin County Health and Human Services.

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