Let's face it, nutrition can be complicated. We know we should eat our veggies, but beyond that, things get hard. To help you wade through the information and find useful tidbits for your everyday life, Supper is excited to introduce our "Ask an RD" series, where passionate, talented dietitians answer your questions.
We're so excited to kick this off with Autumn Ehsaei, a Triangle-based registered dietitian. Autumn is passionate about helping others have healthy relationships with food. In addition to helping clients, Autumn can be found kicking butt as an instructor at Pure Barre.
Let’s start with a question from the Supper Meals (SM) team:
SM: We know there are all sorts of drastic changes, but what's a simple improvement most people can make in their daily lives to eat healthier?
AE: Hmmm… Just one?? I suppose I would say start with drinking more water. Most people walk around at least a little bit dehydrated and don’t even know it. Hydration is key for so many reasons, including helping you feel less fatigued, avoiding headaches, and keeping hunger cues in check.
Did you know that sometimes our body sends what we perceive as a hunger cue when you are actually just thirsty? Then you wind up snacking on food that might not be necessary while never actually satisfying that thirst. Try to “bookend” your day with water- have a few glasses in the morning and evening each day to help squeeze in enough. Keep a water glass or bottle with you all the time, and consider infusing it with fruits, vegetables, or herbs to make it more appealing.
And now for some social media questions...
Karen asks, What are the most important super foods for health and disease prevention that you would recommend everyone include in their diets?
AE: Good question! First off, I think that all foods are “super foods” because, hey, they keep us alive, and that’s pretty super don’t you think? That being said, certain foods are more nutritionally dense than others and are a fabulous choice to include frequently in your diet. I personally try to eat dark, leafy green vegetables at least 1-2 times daily. These foods (including spinach, kale, chard, arugula, mustard greens, and more) are full of good-for-your-gut fiber that keeps you feeling full, folate for heart health and brain function, vitamin K for bone health, as well as plant-based iron and calcium. They are chock-full of phytochemicals, or components unique to plants that help to prevent and fight various diseases.
Berries are another great super food to include in your diet regularly. They are a potent source of antioxidants including vitamin C and anthocyanins. Their antioxidant capabilities help scavenge free-radicals in the body, helping to prevent disease and keep our cells strong. They also are full of fiber, which keeps you feeling full and keep the good bacteria in your GI tract healthy. Not to mention, they are delicious! Both fresh and frozen are good choices.
Nuts and seeds are worth including in your diet each day too! They can be a great source of filling protein, healthy fats (walnuts are the highest in those healthy omega-3 fats) and good fiber as well. Many studies show that those who include nuts or seeds in their diets regularly have lower incidences of chronic diseases and benefit greatly from these little nutritional power-houses.
Karlin is looking for tips to eat healthy during long nursing shifts at the hospital.
AE: Shift work hours can be so tough when you are trying to stay on track with health goals. Especially with nursing, you are on your feet, often with a jam-packed schedule, and can barely find time to breathe, let alone eat! In this case, preparation is key. Planning for success will keep you away from the vending machine and out of the doughnut-filled break room. If you have time to eat actual meals during your shift, definitely try to do that. If not, bring lots of small, healthy snacks that you can eat quickly and frequently to keep hunger at bay and energy high.
In either case, you want to focus on a balance of good protein, healthy fat, filling fiber, and sustainable carbohydrates to find your best feeling self. If you can eat a meal, try to get ½ plate of vegetables, ¼ plate of lean protein, and ¼ plate of a whole grain carbohydrate or starchy vegetable. A Supper Meals dish might be the perfect solution for this- just heat it up and it’s ready to eat.
If snacking is more feasible, aim to always pair some protein and/or fat with your carbohydrate source for more sustainable energy. Some examples of this would include: and apple with 2 Tbsp nut butter, hard boiled egg with a pear or orange, yogurt with berries and granola, avocado on toast, peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain or sprouted grain bread, cheese stick with whole grain crackers, sliced veggies with hummus or guacamole. Smoothies are a good idea too- you can get vegetables, protein, and good carbohydrates in a quick to sip, easy to digest way. Just blend them ahead and keep in the fridge once at work to grab when you have a break. Make sure to stay well hydrated too, and try to eat something every 2-3 hours if possible.
Ok Autumn, thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions and we'll check back in with you soon!
You can find more of Autumn's helpful tips and recipes at Perennial Nutrition. And none of this constitutes medical advice from Autumn or Supper. It's a blog, guys. Get that from your doc :)