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Gimme 5: Do something other than dieting in the new year

Public health nutritionist says small lifestyle changes better than strict diet

  • Krahn-Susan-011518-jpg

    Susan Krahn

    Contributed photo

Editor’s note: Gimme 5 is a five-question interview about a topic of local interest. 

Title: Susan Krahn, public health nutritionist with Eau Claire City-County Health Department.

Talks about: Ditching the diet.

More information: 715-839-6941 or​healthdepartment.

Why encouragepeople to not diet?

Fad diets that restrict too many foods or entire food groups are really hard to stick with when life happens. 

Once it gets too hard to stick with a restrictive diet, the health or weight loss benefits do not last long. 

Rather than taking on an entire new way of eating, small lifestyle changes to eat smarter and move more can make a big difference and last for life.

The exception to this is when a medical provider recommends a specific diet as part of prevention or treatment of a medical condition.

What are some examples of small lifestyle changes for children?

Healthier beverages and more water. Most children should drink less sweet drinks. Young children shouldn’t drink more than half a cup (4 oz) of juice a day and older children should stick with just one cup (8 oz) per day. 

Young children should not have sweet drinks like Kool-Aid, sports drinks or soda. 

These drinks can be once in a while “treats” for older children. Find ways to drink more water as a family and keep the sweet drinks out of the house.

More fruits and vegetables. You cannot force a child to eat fruits and vegetables, but it is our job as parents or caregivers to offer them at meals and snacks daily.

Be a healthy role model. Your kids are watching.

What are some examples of small lifestyle changes for adults stuck at work for most of the day?

Find ways to move more. 

If you are sitting for most of your day at work, try to get up and walk at least one time each hour. 

Walk to a co-worker’s desk rather than sending an email. Fill your water bottle up at a fountain that is farther away. Park at the back of the parking lot. Before or after work, take a half hour to be active. Take a walk, clean the house or play with your kids.

Plan ahead. Instead of caving in to the candy dish or donuts your coworker brought in, have a stash of better options that you like to eat instead.

Some adults don’t eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables. Why is it so hard for people to do this and how can they change this?

There are many reasons why people don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Perceptions of higher costs, not having time to prepare them or not knowing how to prepare them are probably top reasons for many people. 

However, there are many factors outside our own control. 

For instance, of the $2 billion per year that is spent on advertising food and beverages, less than one percent is spent on healthier foods. When did you last see an ad for broccoli or apples in the checkout lane at the grocery store?

Start small with changes in your eating pattern. 

Don’t commit to something hard like preparing healthy brown bag lunches from scratch five days a week. A small change could be packing one fruit and one vegetable to eat with your typical lunch while you are at work.

We can all be healthy role models for our friends, family and coworkers. Bring fruits and vegetables to work meetings and family celebrations. Take fruits and vegetables for snacks at after-school activities.

How do you suggest that people stick with these changes and not fall off?

It is hard to make changes. Research shows it can take one to two months of practicing a new daily habit before it becomes routine. 

Find a support person to hold yourself accountable. Start small and be realistic about your own personal motivation.

— Ben Rueter,reporter

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