March is National Nutrition Month — a time when Registered Dietitians (RD) educate the public about healthy eating. To get the word out, Janet Helm over at Nutrition Unplugged invited RD bloggers to write about what they think it will take to change Americans’ eating habits. So here’s my shot at it — but don’t miss other RDs’ advice at the end of this post (if links aren’t there yet check back later).
My first job as an RD was as a nutrition counselor in a hospital. Unfortunately, I dumped tons of healthy eating information in my patients’ laps. When I coupled this information with the words “forever” and “lifelong” the fear these poor people felt was palpable.
I’ve learned a lot since then and now understand that it’s not more nutrition information people need but help to translate the advice into their busy lives. And what better way to illustrate this then with the famous story The Wizard of Oz.
1. Look inside for solutions, not outside
Each of the characters in The Wizard of Oz believed they needed something they didn’t already have to reach their goals. The scarecrow needed a brain, the tin man a heart, the lion courage, and Dorothy needed transportation to get home.
With a 40-billion diet industry, we are constantly sold the idea that we need something special to achieve good health — a diet plan, supplements, specialty products, more time, and even willpower. As long as we believe that we need something outside of us — and our daily lives — we will keep searching (and waiting) instead of tapping into the amazing power we already have.
2. Learn to tap into your power source
The “aha” moment in The Wizard of Oz was when the characters realized that they each already had the ability to create the life they wanted.
When it comes to leading the healthy lifestyle of our dreams, we have that power too. When we start with where we are, the foods we love, and the daily routine we treasure, we can find solutions that actually work for us. It’s amazing how much easier things can be when we stop fighting our lives, and ourselves, and actually use what we have to our advantage.
3. Lose the big goal and take small steps
Each of The Wizard of Oz characters were guilty of focusing on their big goal instead of the little steps they needed to achieve success. This is what the journey to the wizard brought them — each step they took moved them closer to their goal.
Small steps to improve eating and exercise do two things. First, they are attainable which helps build confidence. Second, they are much more likely to match our lifestyle and personal preferences than big, sweeping changes. In fact, the process becomes so enjoyable, that we often forget about the big goal and sometimes end up on a totally different (and more fun) adventure than planned.
Below are examples of small changes to try. The goal is to master each small goal and either add to it or try a different one.
- Sit down for meals and snacks, being mindful when eating.
- Add a different fruit or veggie to meals or snacks each week.
- Walk for 5 minutes a day (or 1 or 2 minutes).
- Try a new quick and nutritious recipe for dinner every month — keep those that taste great in a folder.
- Make a point to pay attention to hunger and fullness signals. If you need some help, learn from your toddler.
- Include a sensible portion of one of your favorite fun foods each day
Don’t miss Tiny Habits with BJ Fogg on The Healthy Family Podcast
4. Change when life changes
What we don’t see in The Wizard of Oz is what happens later — something dietitians call maintenance. Many people tell me how they used to eat well and exercise but something got in the way — a new job, a baby, a move, or any life stressor.
This may be the most overlooked contributor to lifelong healthy eating habits and exercise — the ability to adapt to the current of your life. Maybe morning workouts used to work for your old job but with your new one, walking at lunch makes much more sense.
With a toddler at home, cooking elaborate meals goes out the window so easy meals prepped earlier in the day are key. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our first preference, in order to get through a challenging period. I for one can’t wait to get back into the gym. But for now, DVD tapes and running work best while chasing after little ones.
5. Be the expert on yourself
At the end of The Wizard of Oz, each of the characters has found their way — their place in the world that feels right for them.
Yes, registered dietitians are the food and nutrition experts but the real expert is you. We can provide you with evidence-based advice but only you know how to fit it into your life and personal preferences — and that of your family.
And most importantly, with all this talk about change, the gift you give to your children is to teach them that they already have the power. Hopefully, by the time they are adults healthy habits and their lifestyle will already be in perfect harmony (no change required).
So what do I think it will take to help Americans eat better? For every person to realize that they already have what they need to be healthier, they just need to build on it in their own way. After all, there’s no place like home.
Check out these RD bloggers!
Janet Helm, Nutrition Unplugged: Helping American Eat Right!
Regan Jones, The Professional Palate: National Nutrition Month — Time for Show, Not Tell
Julie Upton, Katherine Brooking, Appetite for Health: Color Your Diet Healthy
Tracy Owens, Triangle Nutrition Therapy: National Nutrition Month
Karman Meyer, Nutrition Adventures: Color Your Plate
Rebecca Subbiah, Chow & Chatter: Add Color to Your Plate!
Sarah-Jane Bedwell, Nashville’s Nutrition Expert: Color Yourself Healthier
Lyn Turton, Caledonia Nutrition: National Nutrition Month – Eat With Color
Janet Helm, Nutrition Unplugged: It’s National Nutrition Month – Eat Right With Color
Emma Stirling, The Scoop on Nutrition: Hop on the Hemp Wagon for National Nutrition Month
Chere Bork, Taste Life: Five Ways to Eat the New USDA Science Guidelines
Bonnie Tandy LeBlang, Bite of the Best: National Nutrition Month – Registered Dietitian Day
Janel Ovrut, Eat Well With Janel: National Nutrition Month – Top Foods You’re Not Eating
Jessie Claire, Good and Good For You: Nutrition is all About Food
Rima Kleiner: Celebrating Food
Rachel Begun, The Gluten-Free RD: National Nutrition Month – Eat Right With Color!
Liz Weiss, Janice Bissex, Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen: Celebrate National Nutrition Month by Eating a Rainbow
Victoria Shanta Retelny, Living Well Communications: Celebrate March by Eating Right
Elana Natker, A Sprinkle of Sage: What’s Your Nutrition Resolution?
Carolyn O’Neil, Dish on Dieting: Baby You Can Drive My Car…To the Healthiest Menus
Elizabeth Rahavi, IFIC’s Food Insight: Eat Right With a Colorful Plate
Jill Castle, Just the Right Byte: What Will It Take to Get America’s Kids to Eat Right?
Sheila Viswanathan, The Lazy Dietitian: Happy Registered Dietitian Day
Brittany Glasset, Nutrition in a Nutshell: National Nutrition Month – Make a Rainbow on Your Plate