We all know it's a challenge to eat healthfully in our drive-through, junk-food world. But what about those people who make a living urging folks to improve their diets? How do they manage to pull it off themselves? I asked dietitians from all over the country how they eat well despite life's challenges, and they shared some favorite diet tips they use in their own lives.
1. Enjoy Fast Food Weekly, but Make Smart Choices
This is one of my own favorite tips on how to live in the real world as a dietitian and mother and still aim for healthy eating most of the time. When my now 16-year-old was in kindergarten, I started bringing lunch to my two daughters on Fridays when I had volunteer duty at the school, and "fast-food Friday" was born. My girls are now in high school, and believe it or not, I still do this. (Apparently, they're willing to brave the embarrassment of meeting their mom at the front of the school if it means getting a break from bag lunches.)
The way I see it, this is actually an exercise in moderation. By having it once a week, my girls are exposed to fast food, but it isn't standard fare. They've also learned how to make healthier fast-food choices. Fast-food Friday often consists of BBQ grilled chicken sandwiches on whole-grain buns, bean burritos, or vegetable-topped personal pizzas.
2. Drink No More Than 1 Diet Soda a Day
You find soda everywhere in our culture, whether you're at a fast-food restaurant, gas station, vending machine, or a friend's house. Some people limit sugary drinks but allow themselves boundless diet sodas. This may seem like a great solution, considering that 41% of the added sugar in the diets of American children and teens comes from beverages. In fact, a study by the National Center for Health Statistics found that teens get 327 calories a day from sugary sodas, teas, and energy drinks. But instead of replacing sugary drinks with diet versions, I would rather keep my intake of diet soda and artificial sweeteners to about one drink per day. It leaves more room for hydrating water and healthy green teas!
If you enjoy diet sodas, as I do, try limiting your intake to one can when you want it the most during the day (for me, that's right after lunch or mid-afternoon). So yes, you'll find diet sodas in this dietitian's refrigerator -- but you'll also find plenty of alternatives like mineral water, lots of tea options, freshly squeezed orange juice, and low-fat milk.
3. Pizza Night!
Marcia Yamashiro, RD, a northern California dietitian who counsels people with eating disorders, participates in a weekly "pizza night" with her family of four.
Sound surprising? The truth is that pizza can definitely be a better choice if topped with vegetables instead of fatty meats, especially if it comes on whole grain pizza crust. Ask for extra pizza sauce. (It's rich in phytochemicals from the tomatoes.) Serve the slices with a green salad or some fresh fruit for a more balanced, fiber- and nutrient-rich meal.