Do I need to change what I eat?
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you may need to talk about nutrition with your doctor:
- Has your doctor talked with you about a medical problem or a risk factor, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
- Did your doctor tell you that this condition could be improved by better nutrition?
- Do diabetes, cancer, heart disease or osteoporosis run in your family?
- Are you overweight, or have you gained weight over the years?
- Do you have questions about what kinds of foods you should eat or whether you should take vitamins?
- Do you think that you would benefit from seeing a nutritionist? (A nutritionist is a registered dietitian who specializes in nutrition counseling.)
Won't it be hard to change my eating habits?
Probably, but even very small changes can improve your health considerably. The key is to keep trying to eat the right foods and stay in touch with your doctor and nutritionist, to let them know how you're doing. Here are a few suggestions to help you improve your eating habits:
- Find the strong points and weak points in your current diet. Do you eat 5 to 7 servings of fruits and vegetables every day? Do you get enough calcium? Do you eat whole-grain, high-fiber foods regularly? If so, good! You're on the right track. Keep it up. If not, you can learn the changes you need to make.
- Make small, slow changes, instead of trying to make large, fast changes. Small changes will be easier to make and stick with.
- Keep track of your food intake by writing down what you eat and drink every day. Use this record to help you see if you need to eat more from any food groups, such as fruits, vegetables or dairy products.
- Think about asking for help from a nutritionist if you haven't already done so -- especially if you have a medical problem that requires you to follow a special diet.
Can I trust nutrition information I get from newspapers and magazines?
Nutrition tips from different sources can sometimes conflict with each other. You should always check with your doctor first. Also, keep in mind this advice:
- There is no "magic bullet" when it comes to nutrition. Short-term diets may help you lose weight, but they are difficult to keep up and may even be unhealthy in the long run.
- Good nutrition doesn't come in a vitamin pill. With a doctor's recommendation, a vitamin pill can help you get enough vitamins and minerals, but your body benefits the most from eating healthy foods.
- Eating a variety of foods is best for your body. Learn to try new foods.
- Stories from people who have used a diet program or product, especially in commercials and infomercials, are advertisements. Remember, regained weight or other problems that come up after someone has completed the program are never talked about in those ads.
What changes can I make now in my diet?
Almost everyone can benefit from cutting back on fat. If you currently eat a lot of fat, try just one or two of the following changes:
- If you eat meat, eat it baked, grilled and broiled rather than fried. Take the skin off before eating chicken. Eat fish at least once a week.
- Cut back on extra fat, such as butter or margarine on bread, sour cream on baked potatoes, and salad dressings.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables with your meals and as snacks.
- When eating away from home, watch out for "hidden" fats (such as that in salad dressing and desserts) and larger portion sizes.
- Read the nutrition labels on foods before you buy them. If you need help reading the labels, ask your doctor or your nutritionist.
- Drink no- or low-calorie beverages, such as water, unsweetened tea and diet soda.
Balanced nutrition and regular exercise are good for your health even if your weight never changes. So try to set goals you have a good chance of reaching, such as making one of the small changes listed above or walking one more day per week.