“Food is medicine. We feel better when we are eating better,” Kristina Adams-Smith, MS, RDN, LDN, registered dietitian for Nutrition Services at Carle, said. “If you cook at home, you do not need to recreate an entire recipe. Leaving out the added salt and cutting 30 percent of the fat can make a big difference.”
Generally, registered dietitians will tell you a healthy meal means filling half of your plate with non-starchy, non-processed fruits and vegetables, a quarter of the plate with whole grain food and a quarter of the plate with a protein such as fish, chicken or beans.
Cutting down on the habit of using salt can make a big difference in blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack. Adams-Smith said she has squeezed lemon juice on an omelet or an ear of corn to provide a surprisingly salty taste without the added sodium. If you grow herbs, they provide a great substitute for salt as can common spices such as onion power or garlic powder.
Choosing whole wheat tortillas, whole wheat pasta or whole grain rice is preferable and if you use bouillon cubes instead of the pre-made broth, you can dilute it more for your recipes, she said.
Some patients track their healthy choices by reading labels and making comparisons in products, but the bottom line is simple food like frozen chicken breasts, frozen vegetables without any added seasoning or canned vegetables (rinsed) are healthy and nutritious choices that are also affordable, Adams-Smith said.
Also, instead of buying pizza or tacos, families can have some fun making their own with pre-made crusts and giving every family member a say in what toppings they want to add, she said. You can also use smaller pizza crusts for individual servings. The same healthy choice theory can be applied to a taco bar or a baked potato bar for a meal.
Carle patients are referred by their healthcare providers to dietitians in Nutrition Services and dietitians get to know each patient’s lifestyle so they can provide engaging recommendations toward successful outcomes.
While dietary changes are important, Adams-Smith said they also encourage patients to be active, explaining that movement is key even if it means moving while sitting in a chair. Using household items like a water bottle or a can of vegetables as a 1-pound weight can be included for challenging arm movements and there are many helpful and free video resources available for motivational exercise as well, she said.
Diabetes education, digestive education and pediatric nutrition counseling is available through Nutrition Services at Carle.