One day at a time, healthy nutrition is easier than you think

“I’ll start my diet tomorrow.” “That will be my New Year’s Resolution.” “It costs too much. “It’s too hard.” “I already fell off the wagon once.” “I can’t eat treats.”

We’ve all heard—and maybe even said—the excuses to put healthy eating off another day. Martha Trenkamp, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Carle, has heard excuses for not getting started. Justification is easy and change is hard.

But small steps today can have a big impact on your overall health. Taking it one step or one bite at a time can make the journey less daunting. Trenkamp recommends starting today because summertime can be the best time to start and stick to it.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are accessible and affordable. Activity is easier with extra daylight and summertime festivities.

Tin with daughterTina Farthing of Champaign fears her recent work on eating better to control her diabetes may suffer when the leaves begin to fall and the holidays start. Summertime has been easier for her to find quick and easy healthy choices.

“I planted a mini garden so my whole family would have accessible healthy choices within reach,” said Farthing. 

Her shopping list rarely includes sweets, and she’s careful to watch carbs, proteins and fats instead packing her cart with tomatoes, peppers and onions, and healthier options like cottage cheese.

“I feel fuller with vegetables. I love fruit but have to be careful about carbs with my diabetes so I usually choose fresh berries,” Farthing said.

Helpful reminders from post-it notes at the office are a low-tech way to keep focus and track her progress. She has her whole family on a healthy eating path and has found creative ways to keep favorites like pasta and sandwiches.

Zucchini noodles fill in for pasta, and although she admits the switch from white to wheat bread has been a challenge, it’s worth it for lifelong health. And she’s not alone in her struggle to find healthy foods and to fit in daily exercise.

While researching and preparing for bariatric surgery, Ron Bryson, Rantoul, decided diet and exercise appealed to him. At 430 pounds Byson knew something had to change and fast. But fast he wasn’t.

Ron afterThe mechanic said it took him more than 10 minutes to get up off the ground. He felt tired, sore and unattractive. A frank conversation with a Carle dietitian changed his life. Bryson knew he had to cut his daily caloric intake by half to 3,000 calories and he had to conquer his stationary bike that had been TV collecting dust in front of the TV.

“Martha connected me with tools to track my exercise and calories,” said Bryson, adding he prefers MyFitness Pal because it’s free and easy to use. He set daily and weekly goals to keep him motivated.

Slow and steady is how he’s changing his patterns. Each day he pedals his way to shed the weight. At the beginning, Bryson hoped to bike 20 minutes to lose two pounds a week.

After 904 straight days of exercise, he bikes 80 minutes or 22.6 miles a day, and has lost 140 pounds. Bryson is confident he’ll exceed his goals because not exercising daily now feels wrong. He’s grateful for more energy and for tricks he’s found to make eating healthy easier.

His tips include:

  • Use hot sauce as flavoring
  • Switch to diet soda or unsweetened tea
  • Drink more water
  • Eat the chocolate – just make sure it’s snack size.

And Carle dietitians like Trenkamp agree everything in moderation. While many people with busy lifestyles are eating out consuming foods that are high in fat, calories and sodium, Trenkamp says you can still find ways to make healthy and tasty selections whether eating at home or dining out.

Swap fries for fresh fruit or seasonal vegetables. Ask for whole grain instead of white bread. Seek healthy fats like almonds, walnuts, pecans and avocados.

Not only is it better for you, the studies show good nutritional habits now can help prevent or delay diseases and complicated medical issues like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Carle dietitians can assist you meeting your specific health and nutrition needs. To schedule an appointment, call (217) 383-3490.

Both Bryson and Farthing said good habits Ron in overallsstarted this spring will carry them through the holidays, help avoid temptations and focus on longer-lasting results. Last year Bryson gained 20 pounds back but purchased a new scale, made a new plan and kept working. He is preparing now for healthy additions to his traditional Thanksgiving meal.

“Veggie trays with low-calorie dip can go a long way to curbing snacking that goes on when the family gets together. Yogurt is a delicious and a wonderful substitute for sour cream,” he said.