Q&A with dietitian David Orozco on National Nutrition Month
If your New Year’s resolutions to eat well have slipped in the last two months, it’s never too late to reset. March is National Nutrition Month, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The theme this year is “ Savor the Flavor of Eating Right” and the focus is on mindful eating and nutritious flavorful foods. Registered Dietitian Nutritionist David Orozco, owner of Decatur’s TD Wellness, answered some questions on easy ways to make sure we are eating well.
Q: What’s the biggest nutrition mistake people make?
A: I don’t subscribe to the idea of there being nutrition “mistakes.” All that does is label people as “bad” because they made the “mistake” of eating something unhealthy. And it isn’t any better either to label someone “good” because they eat broccoli for lunch. I find that weight management and obesity are very complex issues, with various factors that affect people over a very long period of time. It’s not like someone wakes up the morning after eating ice cream and has gained 30 pounds.
It’s easy to blame weight gain on a certain type of food like carbs, fats, processed foods, fast foods, or others, because as often, soon as you eliminate them from their diet, you’ll lose weight. We still have an obesity crisis in America and I see so many people trying to eliminate more and more from their diets. But after a while, the weight just keeps creeping up. So to me it’s less about a nutrition mistake, and more about a lack of awareness. Consciousness is key!
Often times, the thing I see works best for most clients is not a big change like crash or elimination diets, or going vegetarian, paleo, carb or gluten fee, or cutting fats. It’s the simple things people do consistently over time. For example, I see people improve their weight, health, and mood by just adding a small fruit to breakfast, or eating four to five fewer bites at dinner, getting 30 minutes more sleep, eating at home just once more a week, or taking a five-minute walk with the family after dinner.
In other words, it’s not about giving up something or forcing yourself to eat foods that don’t please you, it’s about paying attention to the things we eat and do mindlessly. I tell clients to pay attention to their eating patterns, to pay attention to what their needs AND wants are. I don’t want to be another food police voice in a person’s mind that jeopardizes their natural and intuitive hunger and fullness cues. That only causes more anxiety.
Q: What’s the easiest change people can make when it comes to nutrition?
A: The easiest change to nutrition is pausing. It really isn’t rocket science. We don’t need meal plans, recipes, or fancy chefs cooking meals for us (many of us couldn’t afford that anyway), but instead we should slow down and pay attention to our decisions. I find the simple things matter most, done consciously and consistently over time. For example, taking an extra two minutes to stop and have a side salad or a small fruit with that burger or chicken sandwich for lunch, or pausing and taking a couple of breaths before starting or finishing a meal.
I find this simple awareness technique, pausing and breathing, is the easiest thing people can do to pay attention and make smarter decisions of how much and what they are eating. Again, it’s less about giving up something and more about being aware, paying attention, and slowing down.
Q: How can people eat more mindfully?
A: A few simple techniques:
- Pause before eating or finishing a meal. Take three deep breaths just before finishing a meal.
- Wake up five minutes early each morning and mentally plan meals for the day.
- Eat with people and not computers or smartphones.
- Take a 5-10 minute break. Studies show that a couple more breaks a day actually lead to greater productivity.
- Keep a journal just once a week or month. It doesn’t have to be a food journal – just capture what happens during a meal.
- Take more time to relax. Maybe turn off the TV, computer, or smartphone 20-30 minutes before bed.
- I like Calm.com. They have an app with a 7 or 21-day meditation exercise. It’s worked great to help me sleep.
- Each day, take three to five deep breaths in the morning, afternoon, or at night. It doesn’t matter when.
Q: What’s your favorite way to create a lot of flavor in a healthy way?
A: Your readers might think I’m crazy but one of the ways I add flavor to healthy is by combining what I call foods my body “WANTS” with foods my body “NEEDS.” This is a lot of what I do with my clients. I work with them to find ways of combining foods they like, such as: burgers with salads, eggs with veggies, breads with avocado, cookies with fruit, etc.
For example, some mornings I’ll enjoy one egg scrambled and I’ll add spinach, but I’ll cook the eggs in butter. The next day I’ll add an ounce of low-fat cheddar cheese and cook with olive oil. I might make spaghetti for dinner and instead of more meat or pasta, I’ll displace the volume of food by adding broccoli in with the pasta – an easy way to add healthy flavor. I’ll also try other international spices and ingredients in my typical dishes to jazz up rice, soups, pastas, and casseroles, such as turmeric, cilantro, sage, farro or ancient grains, or hot peppers, just to name a few. Again, it’s about the simple things we do that make the biggest impact!
Q: What advice do you have for those struggling to eat healthy?
A: Stop struggling, just enjoy your food! The more you struggle the more you’ll lose the struggle. It’s less about trying to eat healthy and more about paying attention to why or when you are or aren’t eating. Paying attention empowers us to trust our selves, because who doesn’t know we need to eat more fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats? This takes time but it shouldn’t be hard work.
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