Nutrition is tough. Sure, the basics of fruits and vegetables are tried-and-true, but there’s always some other diet trend popping up or some new research that appears telling you that one thing you thought was good for you actually isn’t good for you at all. As a science, nutrition always is changing and evolving, but that also means it can be challenging for consumers to know what’s best for them on an individual level when it comes to nutrition. March is National Nutrition Month, which means it’s the perfect time to analyze our food choices, and work to develop sound eating habits that can last a lifetime.
Blount Memorial registered dietitian Heather Pierce says before you dive into the latest diet trend, there are some things to consider. “You want to sit back and really consider your goals and the reasons why you want to make changes,” Pierce said. “You could be trying to simply eat better or lose weight or manage a disease. Whatever the reason, you need to cement it in your mind before you do anything else because understanding your ‘why’ will help you going forward. Also, ask yourself, on a scale of one to 10, how ready you are to make significant changes,” she explained. “Remember, it’s okay to not be ready, but you need to self-evaluate before you begin,” she added.
“If you’re investigating whether a new diet is right for you, it’s important to ask yourself if you’re willing to try new foods in order to adhere to the diet’s rules,” Pierce continued. “If you don’t like the foods on the diet, then it’s highly unlikely that diet will work for you or give you the results you’re seeking. If you hate vegetables, for instance, you’re going to have a difficult time going vegan,” she explained. “Also, before you select a new diet plan, make sure that diet is going to provide you with adequate nutrition. If you do choose to try going vegan, make sure your vitamin B12, iron, calcium and protein intake levels are right for you. Be aware of the need to increase your water and magnesium intake if you’re trying the keto diet,” she said. “You can get help with managing these levels with certain free tracking apps, or by consulting with a registered dietitian,” she added.
Ultimately, Pierce says, you want to make sure that the diet you choose is a diet you can live with. “Can your diet be a part of your lifestyle?” Pierce said. “That is the question that matters most. Don’t expect every diet to work for you just because someone you know has had success with it. It’s perfectly okay to try a diet to see if it works, then change to a different diet if it doesn’t,” she explained. “Whether you’re thinking of going keto, vegan or something else entirely, one change we all can and should make is to focus on eating more foods with fresh ingredients and fewer processed foods. If you find yourself stuck, remember that a registered dietitian can help steer you toward nutrition plans and eating habits that are customized for your individual needs,” she added.