When it comes to making healthy food choices, says Judy Matusky, RD, LDN, Nutrition Program Specialist, Bryn Mawr Hospital and Paoli Hospital, “Life gets in the way. We all have good intentions, and know generally what we should be eating. But we get derailed, and it’s hard to get back on track.
“What Laurie Robinson has done is remarkable,” says Judy. “Laurie was able to take what she learned about nutrition while in cardiac rehab, and apply it to her everyday life. She has worked one day at a time to make a conscious effort to change her behaviors. As a dietician, I preach about making realistic lifestyle and diet changes without following a ‘diet.’ People who take on a ‘diet program’ are successful in the short term, but not in the long term. You need to make small changes that you can live with forever.”
Judy acknowledges that it’s not easy to change behaviors, but reminds us, the longer you stay with a behavior, the more likely it will stick. “You can eat healthy, and enjoy all the flavors of fresh, wholesome food,” she explains. “You just have to be smart about it. When you adopt healthier behaviors, you get to the point where you really notice how good you feel. You sleep better. You can walk without being fatigued. You really don’t know how bad you feel until you feel better. It’s even more motivational than outward appearance.”
Judy says that losing two to three pounds a month is a real success, and that shedding one to two pounds a week is remarkable. She reminds us to not be discouraged, but to remain patient and keep an eye on the long-term goal.
“You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to eat healthy,” says Judy, “but you do have to plan and prepare.” Her tips include shopping on “the outer perimeter of the supermarket, where the healthiest foods are.” She tells us to choose lots of colorful fruit and vegetables, as well as whole grains, and to keep processed foods to a minimum.
She urges us to carefully read labels to keep our sodium intake as low as possible, and limit our saturated fat intake to less than 7% of our total calories. For example, based on the average calorie recommendation for adults of 2,000 a day, we should have less than 15 or 16 grams of saturated fat daily. And be aware of portion size, she says. Most portions should be about the size of a tennis ball.
“There is a lot of research that shows a strong link between the food we eat and the influence it has on our heart,” says Judy. “You don’t need to analyze every piece of food you eat. You just need to look at the foods you eat over a week, or a month, and ask yourself, ‘Am I making good choices most of the time?’”
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