IU dietitian encourages people to think of healthy eating as a lifelong process

It’s the new year. For the past few months, as you helped yourself to another holiday cookie and stuffed yourself with turkey, you’ve been telling yourself, “After the new year, I’ll replace these cookies with celery sticks.”

Steven Lalevich

Steven Lalevich, registered dietitian with Healthy IU

But as Americans, we are inundated with information touting the latest diet, the most recent research and recommendations from everyone, including the government, on what we should and should not be eating. That revolving door of information can make it overwhelming to decide how to make even the simplest changes.

“The public is continually bombarded with news headlines about diet and nutrition, as seemingly every nutrition study is deemed newsworthy,” said Steven Lalevich, dietitian for Healthy IU. “This can be overwhelming for people as they try to make sense of the news reports, which often contradict each other.”

When making the decision to eat healthier, Lalevich encourages people to first look broadly at the food you consume and the number of calories you ingest.

If your diet is mostly made up of whole plant foods like fruits and vegetables, and whole animal foods like eggs and fish, Lalevich said you’re on the right track.

“Eating whole foods is important to ensure you are consuming adequate amounts of essential nutrients,” Lalevich said. “Many Americans consume excessive calories but are actually malnourished from having a diet that is lacking in these nutrients. For example, whole grains retain the many nutrients contained in the germ and the bran of the grain, whereas these nutrient-dense components are removed in the processing of refined grains.”

When it comes to calories, Lalevich said take a hard look at those sodas and coffees you are consuming. Sugary beverages can add up to extra calories with minimal benefits. Replace them with water when possible.

For those who have no clue where to start, Lalevich recommends turning to a dietitian or health expert for advice in place of searching fruitlessly on the Internet. Full-time employees at IU can meet with a dietitian for free through Healthy IU, and IU students can meet with an IU Health Center dietitian once per semester for free.

Online resources such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate provide a good resource for eating a balanced diet, Lalevich said. For those interested in a Mediterranean-style diet – which emphasizes eating primarily plant-based foods and replacing butter with healthy fats – Lalevich recommends Oldways, a nonprofit food and nutrition education organization.

Whichever path you choose, it’s important, Lalevich said, to avoid gimmicks and quick fixes and instead focus on realistic goals you can maintain over time.

“It is important to think of healthy eating as a lifelong process,” he said. “Instead of looking for quick fixes, work on setting small goals and developing new healthy habits. These small changes, over time, can bring about huge health benefits.”

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