Dieticians share tips to a balanced nutrition

LEWISTOWN–With just over two weeks left in National Nutrition Month, Clinical Registered Dieticians Yelena Share, from Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital, and Beth Gillo, from J.C. Blair Health Systems, each shared insights into maintaining a nutritional diet.

“Healthy eating involves balance between food groups, eating a variety of foods within each food group, moderate intake of all foods and focusing on foods that are nutrient dense … and low in calories,” Gillo said.

“It is important to not only incorporate a variety of foods into your diet, but to also be aware of portion sizes and the role they play in supporting a healthy eating pattern,” Share said.

According to the United States Department

of Agriculture website, the “food pyramid,”

established in 1992, transitioned to MyPlate in 2011 to illustrate the five food groups using the image of a place setting.

“MyPlate serves as a visual representation of what a balanced meal should look like,” Share said. “The image is composed of a plate split into four sections; half of the plate is filled with fruits and vegetables, a little over a quarter of the plate is grains, about one fifth of the plate is protein (and) a cup of dairy sits to the side of the plate.”

When eating from the designated food groups, Share recommended practicing mindful eating.

“Mindful eating means slowing down and enjoying your food,” Share said. “Take small bites and chew food thoroughly, identify the different flavors and put your utensils down in between bites. Paying complete attention to the experience of eating or drinking can help identify true feelings of hunger and fullness …”

Gill said it takes 20 minutes for the average human brain to register being full.

“It is a complex process, involving stretch receptors–nerves–that line the walls of our stomach, and hormones released from our small intestines that signal our brain that we are full,” Gill said. “Waiting before going for ‘seconds’ is often a good idea.”

Both ladies said many of their patients have a lot of misconceptions about nutrition.

“A lot of patients believe that healthy eating is expensive, but it doesn’t have to be,” Share said. “Make sure you’re heading to the store with a plan (and) make a list of exactly what you need. Impulse or unplanned purchases can quickly drive up the cost of your haul.”

Share also recommended coupon clipping, comparing shelf unit prices to determine the right size and best deal, buying in bulk and buying in-season produce, which tends to be less expensive.

“In a pinch, frozen or canned produce that is low (in) sodium and (low in) sugar works just as well,” Share said. “Lastly, avoid soda and high sugar beverages. Keep a water bottle with you … You’ll cut both calories and cost.”

Gill said one common nutrition misconception is believing that all carbohydrates are bad.

“Our bodies need carbohydrates to produce energy,” Gill said. “Too many refined carbohydrates, such as added sugars and refined white flour, should be reduced in our diet. Carbohydrates found in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and low-fat dairy … are a healthy (carb) source.”

Gill said another misconception is that the popular “Keto” diet is a healthy way to lose weight.

“Most people don’t realize that the Keto diet, short for ‘Ketogentic’ diet, was actually developed to treat seizure disorders in children,” Gill said. “You can lose weight by following the Keto diet, however it is not intended for long-term use. Nutrients … are best consumed from food. Our requirement for … nutrients can only be met from a diet that includes all food groups.”

Share said adjusting a daily diet to be more nutritious doesn’t have to be difficult and can include choices such as replacing white or refined grains and pastas with whole wheat products, using beans instead of beef and swapping iceberg lettuce for greens such as spinach or kale.

“Start with simple changes,” Share said.

Gill said, while reducing sugar, saturated fat and calories can improve recipes, one can simply enjoy special recipes in moderation.

“Substitute healthier ingredients if you can–avocado, applesauce, ricotta cheese–but don’t stress over it,” Gill said. “The best advice I can give is to eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruit, lean protein, whole grains, healthy oils, (like) nuts and seeds and low-fat dairy. The idea is to adopt a healthy eating pattern for a lifetime.”