Food in Spoons
This blog is the first post of a four-part series on “Building Your Own Nutritional Plan” by Kristen Smith, RD. Follow along as she continues to further discuss how to implement healthier nutrition habits into your life to reach your long-term goals.

Building a Healthier Nutrition Plan

Deciding to build a healthier nutritional plan can be a challenging endeavor, yet offer countless health benefits.

As a Registered Dietitian, I have worked with hundreds of clients who are considering or have already initiated dietary plans. Many of these clients have been tempted by the latest diet trend or fad, but quickly realize that type of dietary change is not practical for the long-haul.

Before you consider incorporating a nutrition plan, try to make choices you can include as a permanent lifestyle change.

The Impact of What You Eat On Your Health

People decide to start a nutritional plan for a multitude of reasons, but in actuality, health should always be the primary motivator.

Your food choices can have a large impact on your health, both the physical and mental well-being. I often hear from my clients their busy schedules limit them from being able to ensure adequate meal timing and balanced intake.

In reality, health is what allows them to participate in their daily activities that keep them busy.

A startling number of people in the United States are categorized as obese, a condition in which a person’s weight status has a negative effect on their health and increases their risk of selected diseases.

US Obesity ChartThese include heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain kinds of cancers. Current data suggests nearly one-third or 33.8% of American’s are considered obese.

While the cause of obesity is likely complex, unhealthy eating habits certainly play a role.

Even for people who are not considered obese, a diet rich in fat and sugar can have harmful health effects. As a result of unhealthy eating habits and reduced amounts of physical activity adult onset diseases are now being seen in younger age groups.

Nutrition habits developed during childhood often create a foundation for adult habits, which is why I always encourage my clients to teach their children healthy eating habits from the start.

A nutritional plan with a variety of foods from each food group is important to your overall health.

Different food groups provide varying types and amounts of key nutrients warranted for optimal health.

During my nutrition counseling sessions, I often challenge my clients to pick a different colored fruit or vegetable each day of the week.

What you eat can also directly affect your mental well-being. Several studies have found people who consume greater amounts of fruits, vegetables, and plant-based proteins have improved brain function and mental health.

Other studies found diets high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, flaxseed, walnuts, etc.) have been shown to reduce symptoms of certain mental health diseases.

Many of the clients I work with report to me feeling more energized and overall more productive when they cut out the high sugar and fat foods and beverages from their diet.

The Importance of Making Small Changes

You can make a big difference in your health – all by making small changes to the way you eat.

You can make a big difference in your health – all by making small changes to the way you eat.

While some people do succeed in maintaining a healthy nutrition plan for a long period, many people are better able to adapt to dietary changes if they are small and gradual.

Time and time again I have seen clients try to make an overhaul to their diet all at once. They quickly become overwhelmed and resort back to their original eating habits.

Before you set out to build a nutritional plan, think about both short- and long-term goals. Create an initial plan to meet those short-term goals.

As you meet one short-term goal revise your plan to include another goal. You can assess and revise your goals every week, two weeks, or one per month – whatever suits you.

As you meet each of these goals, your confidence will increase and will get closer to meeting that long-term goal.

Useful Tools to Start a Nutrition Plan

Chia Seed Measruing CupEnsuring you have the proper tools available to start a healthy nutritional plan can help provide a solid foundation for long-term success. Tools can vary from a supportive system to a meal planning journal.

Before you set out to implement a nutrition plan, evaluate the current tools you have in place.

A support system or weight loss buddy is instrumental with initiating dietary changes and staying consistent with the new plan.

A support system will help keep you accountable and provide feedback along the way to keep you on track with your goals.

To better understand your needs, it can be helpful to choose people going through a similar experience.

Purchase physical tools to help keep portion sizes in check. Measuring your food with measuring cups and spoons is one of the easiest ways to watch portion sizes.

I counsel my patients to measure their food at the initiation of a new plan and periodically thereafter to evaluate whether their portion sizes have gotten larger over time.

Food scales are another help way to measure portion sizes.

Grab a notebook or meal planner guide to allow for documentation of your upcoming plan. Pick a day each week to spend a small amount of time planning your meals and snacks for the upcoming week.

As the week progresses you can follow along with your plan and check off the foods you ate and note foods added. Thus your planner can also serve as a tracking device or food log.

Takeaways

Your nutrition is important, there is no way around it. IF you don’t pay attention to your nutrition, it can have a lasting impact on your body, and your overall health. But, it doesn’t have to be that way, you can control it.

In fact, improving or changing your normal diet doesn’t have to be a huge deal. Making small, simple changes to what you currently do can have a substantial impact.

You don’t have to fret over a drastic new diet, instead, try to improve in one particular area. This will help you achieve lasting results.

While you make these changes, be sure to track them. Keeping a food journal, or using online tools will make following your progress easier.

Don’t be afraid to find a friend looking to improve their nutrition too. Supporting each other can help ensure you both keep on track.

Although nutrition plays a major role in your overall health, it shouldn’t have to be something that causes you anxiety. Keep the changes simple, and you will be on your way towards your health goals.

What’s Coming up Next

In my next post, you will learn about identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your daily diet. Learning which areas need improving is the first step towards improving your overall nutrition.

With a better understanding of your current nutrition, you can make informed decisions about how to make changes.

I will walk through basic steps to tracking your daily diet, and then how to look for potential issues. Make sure to sign up for our email list to be the first to know when the next post goes live.



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