Make the Right (Food) Choice
Nutritionist Megan McNamee MPh, RD knows most Americans are struggling with their weight. Making the right food choices is not easy for most; then again, McNamee says a diet of carrot sticks and apple slices isn’t the answer either. She provides insight to leading a healthier, more nutritious life – while reducing pain:
Q: We often hear the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet. Can you remind us why this is important?
A: Food really is our best medicine. At each meal we have an opportunity to replenish our bodies with critical nutrients while enjoying satisfying flavors. Good nutrition keeps us alert and productive throughout the day and helps us fend off disease down the road. For those of us who deal with pain on a regular basis, feeding the body what it needs is one more way we can take a proactive step toward healing.
Q: Tell us about your work. Why are you passionate about nutrition?
A: I love how every person can relate to nutrition in his or her own way. Let’s face it: we all have to eat! From chronic dieters to pregnant women to patients with celiac disease, every client is different, but they all want to figure out how to make healthy changes work within their lifestyle. It is very rewarding, I can help guide people toward change in a way that actually works. Most people know, generally, what to do; it’s how to do it that is the challenge.
Q: What physical differences can people see by changing their diet for the better — both short and long-term? how could these help those living with pain?
A: Many of my clients report improved energy levels, better sleep, and stabilized hunger levels within the first few weeks of nutrition therapy. Long-term, clients notice improved skin and hair, potential weight loss, and better digestion. Of course, each client’s needs and experiences are individual, and clients with pain may experience a change in symptoms depending on their situation. Some people manage pain with food, as a type of emotional eating. I help these clients understand their motives for eating and why they choose certain foods, and then we work together to come up with alternative coping mechanisms.
Q: If you could recommend one lifestyle change in relation to diet and nutrition for Americans, what would it be?
A: Most of us drink too much soda, diet or regular. All soda depletes the body of essential minerals and may lead to bone loss and tooth enamel erosion. Regular soda, most commonly sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, leads to blood sugar and insulin spikes that may cause excess weight gain and disease progression. Diet soda, though calorie-free, causes many people to crave the sweet- ness they’re not getting from the artificial sweetener. I recommend my clients switch to unsweetened iced or hot tea, lightly sweetened with stevia or honey, and increase their consumption of filtered water. When necessary, add a little bit of 100% juice, cucumbers, or citrus slices for a kick of flavor.
Q: What would you like Americans to be thinking of, nutritionally?
A: Most think they have to count calories or go on a restrictive eating plan in order to lose weight. While restrictive eating might lead to temporary weight loss, it usually causes weight gain with time because it causes deprivation, and thus binging – which slows the metabolism. The best way to find a weight that’s right for your body is to eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re satisfied or comfortably full, pay attention to food as you eat and savor each bite, and eat foods you truly enjoy. This philosophy, otherwise known as intuitive eating, has helped many get off of the diet roller coaster for good.
Q: What advice would you give to those who are in pain and are interested in changing their diets for the better?
A: Pain can be distracting and all-consuming. It can affect our eating habits when we use food to self-soothe or when it zaps our motivation to shop for groceries and cook for ourselves. Evaluate how pain affects your nutrition. Does it cause you to avoid certain foods or eating situations? Do you turn to fast food because you lack the energy to prepare your own meals? Seek help from a registered dietitian to learn ways to cope with how pain affects your life. Find one at www.eatright.org.
In general, all of us can benefit from eating more vegetables and fruits and fewer refined grains and added sugars. We usually feel better when we normalize our blood sugar and insulin response by balancing carbohydrates, such as grains, with protein and fat, such as almond butter.
For more information, contact McNamee – owner of Nutrition Transitions, LLC – a private nutrition consulting company at www.FindYourTransition.com, or Megan@FindYourTransition.com