A local dietician detailed the intricacies and implications of nutrition during National Nutrition Month in March this year to encourage healthy eating and wellbeing.
Carrie Anderson, RD, aids patients at IU Health Physicians Family Medicine on Hoke Avenue in Frankfort with their nutritional needs and plans and provides tips and tricks to better eating. Anderson commented that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics designed this year’s National Nutrition Month mission to focus around the implementation of plant-based diets.
“National Nutrition Month is one month a year when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics tries to get the word out about the importance of nutrition, and of course good nutrition can help alleviate so many chronic diseases,” said Anderson. “They try to have a different topic every year. This year it’s kind of focusing on more plant-based options. There’s research that following a plant-based diet, like the Mediterranean diet, can help decrease your risk of some chronic diseases.”
Anderson commented that the main risks of poor nutrition include obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and more that could severely impact the lives of the individual.
“You really have to watch it all the time because if you don’t, that’s what’s going to lead to diabetes or kidney disease or obesity,” said Anderson. “If you don’t live a healthy lifestyle, eating healthy foods and keeping your body active, you’ll have to eventually deal with (that).”
For those attempting to transition into a more plant-based diet as the current National Nutrition Month is encouraging community members to do, Anderson provided numerous recommendations to ensure that proper nutrition is accomplished without the presence of as many meat products. Anderson recommended those transitioning to a diet with higher plant-based products to ensure that they receive enough protein and nutrients from items such as beans, lentils, rice and more as well as avoiding many of the meat-substitute products due to high rates of saturated fat.
“Those are good for once in a while, but they’re so high in saturated fat because they’re full of coconut oil, which still is not really a heart-healthy fat. There’s no evidence that says it’s not heart healthy,” said Anderson. “Add those healthy foods, the beans, lentils and whole grains.”
Anderson continued to encourage all individuals to visit the outside aisles of the grocery store to find the fruits and vegetables, lean and unprocessed meats, dairy, eggs and more that are more beneficial to a nutritious diet than processed foods found in the inner-aisles of the store. However, Anderson stressed that some items located in the inner-aisles remain beneficial for a nutritional diet, especially on a budget, such as frozen fruits and vegetables.
“All of those minimally processed foods are what our body needs to really be healthy. You start going to the middle aisles and what do you have? You have things that are already made and ready to go in the microwave,” said Anderson. “They’re super high in sodium and have chemicals to keep them so they can stay on the shelf for two years.”
Anderson encouraged community members to pay attention to their diet to ensure that they consume enough brightly colored fruits and vegetables to provide their bodies with antioxidants. Anderson implored the community to “eat the rainbow” every day rather than dedicating a few meals a week to antioxidant intake.
“Eating the rainbow provides us with so many antioxidants, and those antioxidants, if you think of if you leave metal outside for a couple of seasons, what happens, it rusts. It’s oxidation from the heat, from the wind and from the rain. Obviously our bodies don’t rust, but oxidation happens to our cells where the cells get destroyed by the air we breath and the chemicals that are running around in the foods we eat. Those antioxidants help kind of keep our cells healthy for longer,” said Anderson. “We try to promote actually eating the antioxidants. You need to have those every day.”
Anderson personally takes an approach to nutrition and dietetics where she provides patients with a roadmap of carbohydrate portion sizes rather than encouraging calorie counting due to the implications that carbs can have on the body due to excess energy being stored. Anderson utilizes this model to motivate her patients by not restricting the type of food consumed but rather the amount of carbohydrates consumed.
“You can still eat the foods that you like, you just have to eat less and your portion sizes have to be smaller,” said Anderson. “I’ve had people say, ‘I’ve never eaten so much food and lost weight at the same time.’”
Anderson recognized that purchasing fresh products may be difficult for those on a budget and recommended frozen alternatives that could be cheaper than fresh and on sale or clearance sales for fruits and vegetables. Anderson stressed for individuals to shop in season as the products will be less expensive than the products that are out of season at the time. Anderson stated that a nutritious diet can contain canned vegetables, but she recommends rinsing them with water to reduce the sodium level. Anderson concluded by encouraging individuals to visit the grocery store with a plan because with a plan to avoid buying much more than what is needed.
“I wish everybody could come and see a dietitian just for healthy eating,” said Anderson.
Anderson concluded by recognizing that many non-nutritious diets are the product of a lack of cooking knowledge. Anderson recommended for those that do not know how to cook to buy a children’s cookbook to gain easier recipes that are family friendly with simple ingredients.
“If you don’t know how to cook, go to the library or if you want to buy a book off Amazon, buy a kid’s cookbook,” said Anderson. “They’re little, short recipes. They’re easy things, and you can build from there.”
Anderson is partnering with CORE Community Center to provide the community with an “Eat Well, Live Well” class to encourage healthy eating and focus on diabetes and chronic disease prevention. The class runs on Thursdays from 4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. beginning July 13 at CORE Community Center at 950 S. Maish Rd. in Frankfort. Registration ends on July 1 and costs $50, which includes a 3-month CORE membership. For more information, visit CORE Community Center or call 765-654-9622.
For more information regarding the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ 2023 National Nutrition Month agenda, visit eatright.org.
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