Eat Well to Be Well: Nutrition with the Dietitian

Cheryl_Mussatto_pictureCheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian who works as an adjunct professor at Allen Community College, where she teaches a course called Basic Nutrition. She is also a certified health/wellness coach. She can be reached at [email protected]. She will be writing a regular column about health and nutrition, Eat Well to Be Well, for Osage County News.

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, stated 2,500 years ago, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” His wisdom is still relevant today as Hippocrates knew daily food choices have a direct impact on overall health and well-being.

Today, more than ever, all of us are bombarded with decisions concerning our nutritional habits. We often don’t give it much thought, but food choices we make at a grocery store or restaurant, or how liberally we shake the salt shaker, or how many cookies we sneak from the cookie jar, can either positively or negatively affect what diseases we may or may not get, or whether we fall into a healthy weight category.

As a registered dietitian, I can help make sense of healthy eating for healthy living. In this column, Eat Well to Be Well, I plan to focus on various topics related to nutrition and wellness supported by scientific evidenced-based research giving you sound, reliable sources of nutrition information. Since this is my first column, I’d like to begin by explaining what a dietitian is.

Dietitians are food and nutrition experts who have met minimum academic and professional requirements to qualify for the credential “RD.” A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required with coursework that includes food and nutrition sciences, chemistry, biochemistry and microbiology. Dietitians must also complete an accredited and supervised program at a healthcare facility, community agency or foodservice corporation. To maintain registration status, continuing professional education is required throughout their career.

Dietitians can be found working in hospitals, community and public health settings, school foodservice, food corporations, academia and research and private practice.

In addition to being an RD, I am also a certified health/wellness coach. Health/wellness coaches are credentialed healthcare professionals who combine coaching with their expert knowledge to assist clients on evidence-based areas of wellness – physical activity, nutrition, weight, stress and life satisfaction. Many dietitians are branching into this field as demand is growing to help clients to be proactive with their health. For example, a doctor often tells you what you need to do, but that sends the message, “you aren’t in charge” and that lets you off the hook. A coach works with the client to reach their wellness vision and goals, making the client in charge of their overall health.

Okay, enough about what dietitians can do. Let’s talk nutrition. We’re fast approaching the beginning of summer and that means – summer vacations! Can you pack your bags without packing on the pounds while away from home? The answer is yes! Here are some tips:

  • Take your own snacks for a road trip or plane ride. For road trips, pack a small cooler with fresh fruit, string cheese, pretzels, chopped raw vegetables or baby carrots, sandwiches, fruit cups, or trail mix. Many of these same healthy snacks can be packed in a carry-on bag when traveling by plane. Here’s an easy nutritious trail mix recipe from the magazine Eating Well: ¼ cup whole almonds, ¼ cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, ¼ dried cranberries, ¼ cup chopped pitted dates, 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots, and if you have a sweet tooth like I do, add in a ¼ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips. Mix all together and this can be stored in a plastic bag for up to 2 weeks.
  • Don’t skip meals. Try to keep the same mealtimes while away from home so you don’t get too hungry and overeat.
  • Fill up on healthy foods throughout the day. That means lots of fruits, vegetables, salad greens and whole grains. These will fill you up and add important nutrients to keep you healthy.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day. This not only keeps you hydrated but it has no calories and helps you feel fuller.
  • When eating out, if the portions are very large, split the entree with someone else. Skip the fries and have a side salad instead. Select grilled meats instead of fried and choose wraps or sandwiches without sauces as your entrees.
  • Since you are on vacation, it’s okay to splurge occasionally. But choose wisely. You can still enjoy delicious desserts or entrees but try to stick with a healthy diet 80-90 percent of the time.
  • Keep physically active – use the hotel workout facilities and get in as much walking as you can throughout the day.

The key to not gaining weight while on vacation is sticking to a healthy meal plan and keeping your body moving. That way when you come home you’ll feel refreshed, relaxed and without a lot of extra baggage to get rid of around your waistline.

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