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Beacon Health & Fitness dietitian offers practical advice for improving eating habits

One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to eat healthier and lose weight. It’s easier said than done as old habits are hard to break and fad diets often produce frustration instead of results.

Beacon Health & Fitness registered dietitian Erica Weinandy developed a realistic way for people to get in shape this year without strict dieting or making drastic changes to their routine.

Weinandy’s health talk drew a standing-room only audience at Beacon Health & Fitness Granger. Her presentation focused on making a series of small changes in lifestyle rather than adopting a specific diet plan.

“A diet is not a light switch you turn on and off,” Weinandy said. “Small changes make a lifelong impact, so it is important to start somewhere and develop new habits that aren’t overwhelming.”

Here are Weinandy’s best tips about how the little things go a long way in helping you meet your wellness goals.

Fad diets are very popular but often don’t work long-term because:

  • Their restrictive nature leads to imbalanced eating habits, nutritional deficiencies and lack of variety.
  • The initial weight lost is often water weight and will return.
  • They may bring weakness, headaches, dizziness and psychological distress (“hangri-ness).
  • There’s no chance to develop healthy eating habits.

Rather than focusing on a specific diet plan, it’s important to think about the role our environment plays in fostering unhealthy habits. Weinandy’s recommendations are:

  • Choose foods that support your goals.
  • Don’t eat on the go, standing up or in your car: Eat foods you prepare yourself.
  • Have a positive attitude and visualize success.
  • Develop a support system by changing habits as a family or with friends.

Psychology and healthy eating go hand-in-hand. Therefore, it’s important to focus on how you eat and why you eat just as much as what you eat. Weinandy offers these strategies:

  • Avoid eating as a means to coping with stress or boredom.
  • Keep a food journal to help identify areas of success and those that need changing.
  • Break unhealthy habits by not driving by restaurants that trigger cravings.
  • Eat off smaller plates to avoid eating large portions.
  • Spend more time eating at home.

Weinandy finished the health talk with a list of small things you can do that will notonly help you lose weight, but also develop healthy eating habits that last a lifetime:

  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Eat more slowly to enjoy the food.
  • Skip the “extras” such as sauces, cheese, dressings, fries, etc.
  • Drink water with every meal to feel fuller.
  • Increase your fiber intake by eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.
  • Swap sugars with natural sweeteners.
  • When eating out, order foods that are baked, grilled, roasted, poached or broiled instead of fried.
  • Order only a sandwich at the drive-through, skip the sides and choose only one topping (cheese, mayo, avocado, etc).
  • Go veggie-only and choose a thin crust for pizza.
  • Swap whole milk with 1%.
  • Swap regular ground beef for 90% lean or consider cutting the meat in half and substituting with beans.
  • Use nonfat or low-fat plain or Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.
  • Limit fat and sodium content when purchasing food.
  • Eat three balanced meals a day.
  • Flexibility is OK. If you occasionally want a cookie, have one. Just don’t make it a habit.

In closing, Weinandy noted that healthy eating habits are about much more than food.

“Think about food as something that nourishes the body and a reason to spend quality time with friends and family,” she said. “And think about the outcomes from a holistic perspective and keep moving forward to achieve and sustain your goals.”

Download Weinandy’s tip sheet and food log:

Schedule an appointment with a dietitian:

Learn more about wellness:


About R.J. Pales

R.J. Pales is a Media Relations Specialist for Beacon Health System. He enjoys reading literary classics, acoustic guitar music and all things Mediterranean cuisine.