Simply Better Eating

Healthy lunch in tubberware

By Sarah Koeninger, RD LD, Dietitian Supervisor, Kroger Service Center

If you asked me to name some of the happiest people I know, I’d tell you they are people who aren’t dieting. They are the people who haven’t bought into the latest eating fads and are not restricting their intake to the lowest possible number of calories; they aren’t on a cleanse or eating only the foods from one specific aisle of the grocery store.

Some of the happiest people I know are those who simply try to make better choices 80% of the time; the other 20% of the time, they give themselves a break and indulge in their favorite food or beverage. This is the way I try to live my life. Food (and eating) is one of the great joys in life for many people, me included. I will never pass up the chance to eat a slice of lasagna (especially if it’s made by my grandma or dad). My favorite dessert is cheesecake or ice cream. I’m not a huge chocolate eater, but I do like candy (mainly fruity, chewy stuff). Oh yeah, and I’m a dietitian.

People often think that dietitians eat only “healthy” foods, which they assume to be mostly fruits and veggies, weird grains or foods that are only steamed or grilled with little flavor. Others may think that all dietitians are vegetarians or vegans. Some dietitians may fall into those stereotypes, but the real kicker is that if someone chooses to eat that way, it’s probably because he or she enjoys it! I grew up eating fluffy white bread just like most people and some of my favorite meals include meat or poultry in some form. I’ve always loved cheese and milk and continue to eat them today. Choosing organic foods does not have to be scary or risky, and “healthy eating” does not mean you have to give up your favorite foods. It simply means being more aware of what you consume and not overindulging.

I balance my occasional indulgence in meaty, cheesy lasagna by choosing other foods most of the time. My pantry and fridge are usually stocked with foods like whole grain breads, brown rice, edamame, soy or almond milk (Simple Truth® now has both varieties, plain or flavored), yogurt, whole grain cereal and granola and of course fruits and veggies (fresh, frozen, canned, whatever). Here are some simple things I do that fit into my lifestyle and allow me to live better:

  • Eat breakfast.
  • Cut my food into small bites and eat more slowly.
  • Pack lunch and eat a homemade or semi-homemade dinner most evenings.
  • Use smaller plates and bowls for meals and snacks (salad plates instead of dinner plates).
  • Drink water throughout the day and during meals.
  • Pack my own snacks (granola or fiber bars, small bags of pretzels or trail mix, whole pieces of fresh fruit; things that are portion controlled).
  • Take a break during a meal to see whether I am still hungry or just continuing to eat because there is still food on my plate or in my bowl.
  • Always savor the first bite because the first bite is always the best.

The other important component of my daily life while “simply living better” is staying active. This has gotten a bit more difficult now that I’m heading into the third trimester of my first pregnancy, but I’ve learned if I can get myself out of bed a bit earlier and fit in even ten minutes of weight training, aerobic activity or yoga, I’m not only more alert throughout the day, but I feel more energized and tend to sleep better that evening. I don’t belong to a gym or spend two hours a day dripping in sweat. I simply try to get the most out of the time I have available, whether that means doing calf raises while brushing my teeth, squats while folding laundry or using my stationary bike pedals that are sitting under my desk at work.

Trying to live better shouldn’t be a chore or a hardship. It doesn’t mean you have to give up things you love to eat or do things you hate. If it does, then it will never last.