Simple Tips Can Make Big Nutritional Difference

Nurse Practitioner Scott Schuldes Shares Ways Everyone can Eat Healthier  

We’re bombarded daily with advice and tips to eat healthy. We also know we should be doing it, but eating healthy isn’t easy. Many people are unsure where to start, worry about maintaining it or are afraid of giving up their favorite foods. I get it. I’ve struggled too with eating healthy, but by taking little steps you will see a big difference.  

It’s no secret most Americans are overweight or obese, with more than one-third of U.S. residents labeled obese, which means body mass index (BMI) is higher than 30. Carrying around that extra weight increases blood pressure (which puts stress on your heart) and is a leading factor in causing diabetes.   But by making some changes to what – and how much – you eat can, you can turn the tide.

Here’s some tips anyone can follow:  

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. According to the U.S. nutrition guidelines, half of your plate at each meal should be filled with fruits and vegetables. Vary the kind of fruits and vegetables you eat and try out new varieties. You should also focus on whole fruits and vegetables, whether they are fresh, canned, dried or frozen, rather than juices, since those often have additional sugar. 
  • Eat less sugar. If you start reading food labels, you’ll be surprised to see just how much sugar is in what we eat, whether it’s cookies or ketchup. A good first step is to eliminate the obvious sources of sugar, such as soda and sugary snacks, from your diet. From there, look for other sources of sugar that sneak into your diet, such as some juices, and try to limit those, too. 
  • Focus on whole grains. Whole grains, whether it’s in bread, cookies or pasta, has more fiber, filling you up more quickly so you end up eating less. Just like with sugar, read the food labels to see if something is made from whole grain or refined grains if you’re unsure. 
  • Switch to low-fat dairy products. Dairy products are an essential part of a healthy diet, providing us with much needed nutrients. Whenever possible, go with low-fat cheese, milk, cottage cheese and other dairy products. You’ll be consuming less fat and calories without noticing much change in taste.
  • Watch your portions. The average size of what Americans think is a “normal” portion has changed dramatically in the past 20 to 30 years. Think about the muffin you pick up at a grocery store or coffee shop. While most people would eat that without question as a snack, it likely has more calories than what you normally should be eating at breakfast or lunch. Once again, read nutrition labels and see just how much a portion should be. I think you’ll be surprised. 

When seeing your medical provider at your annual physical, ask him or her for information about healthy eating and nutritional guidelines. We can provide you with fact sheets or tell you where to go online for reliable information (www.choosemyplate.gov is a great place to start.) Making small changes to what you eat combined with regular exercise can help move the scale in the right direction and improve your overall health.  

Scott Schuldes is a certified family nurse practitioner at ThedaCare Physicians-Darboy. He can be reached at scott.schuldes@thedacare.org.