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March is National Nutrition Month.

Advice from an expert on creating healthier habits for you and your family.

By Kristin Carlson, Marketing Specialist, Bonner General Health

As I’m writing this intro, it is nearing the end of January, and I’m curious how everyone’s New Year resolutions are holding up.    We discussed starting the new year on the right health track in the last issue.  How is it going?  Are your new healthy habits sticking?  If not, don’t be discouraged.  Healthy, long-term habits take time, energy, repetition, and commitment.  For clarity, I asked my go-to professional, Sandra Frank (our Registered Clinical Dietitian and Diabetes Education Coordinator at Bonner General Health), for advice on nutrition and forming healthy habits.

As a professional, how do you define “nutrition”?

Nutrition is eating mindfully to nourish our bodies by enjoying whole foods, including vegetables; fruits; whole grains; lean protein–beans, fish, poultry, eggs, lean meats, nuts; low-fat dairy or calcium source; and water to meet our nutrient needs.

How does nutrition affect long-term health?

Our eating impacts our health and weight.  Dietary factors influence chronic disease risk, including heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Digestive, immune, and brain health are also affected by our nutrition.  Aging well through healthy eating at every age is what I am passionate about.

What would be your first advice to someone who wants to make healthy choices but is still trying to figure out where to start?

Consistent meals.  Use the plate method for meal planning. Include a variety of foods in moderation.  Drink water/ avoid sugar-sweetened beverages.

What are the best ways to help a family change their diet?

 ~ Regular family meals with the parents role modeling healthy eating.  Also, trying new foods is the best way to help a family change their eating.

~ Include the family in selecting new foods and recipes.  Age-appropriate tasks for kids, such as mixing a salad, making funny faces with vegetables, and growing vegetables, encourage children to be interested and willing to try a new vegetable or food.

~ Small changes over time, such as one new recipe per month, helps one not feel overwhelmed and be successful.

~ Try fresh foods prepared in different ways, such as raw carrots, roasted carrots, “carrot fries,” carrots in soup, and salad. It takes multiple exposures to new foods before children accept them.  Adults also need to try and retry foods that they disliked as a child with a positive, curious attitude!

What significance does hydration play in nutrition? 

Hydration is imperative to our overall health and to performing physical activity.  Water is needed to lubricate and cushion joints, prevent constipation, remove wastes through urination, maintain an average body temperature, protect our spinal cord, and avoid dehydration.  Fluid intake includes water, other beverages, and water from foods.

What is your go-to healthy snack?

Fruit—fresh fruit in season or frozen berries with plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or a few nuts.

Sandra assesses an inpatient’s nutritional needs after illness, surgery, or diagnosis.  She also counsels’ adult and pediatric outpatients on Medical Nutrition Therapy covering diabetes, weight management, oncology, cardiometabolic and renal conditions, and GI health.  All you need is a referral from your Primary Care Provider. For more information, visit bonnergeneral.org.

This article was written for publication in Sandpoint Living Local – March/April 2023 edition.

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