When you are in the throws of studying nutrition and surrounding yourself with others who are nutritionally minded, it’s possible to forget who really needs our message – and how complicated those messages can be. I was in the chair of my favorite stylist last week who is a working mom with two lovely children and is just trying to make the right food choices for her family. Her previous client was telling her she needed to buy organic foods for her family (most likely with the implied “if you want to be a good mother”). Health messages are confusing and with limited time (and money), it made me really think about what are the key nutrition messages I want to be sharing to help focus the conversation and eliminate the noise. In the business world, we call it the elevator pitch. If you only have a few minutes riding up the elevator (or chatting at a party) with a person, what would your message be? The other business mantra that kept swirling in my head was “Keep it Simple, Stupid” or KISS which speaks to the clarity and focus of the message. I want to have clear, succinct, actionable messages that my friends, family and soon-to-be clients can understand and act on to make healthy changes in their lives.
It made me ponder what my elevator pitch should be. I do buy many organic/grass-fed/cage-free/farmer’s market items, but I that isn’t where I would start given what I know of my friends, family and the public in general.
So this is what is important to me:
Cook at home
I don’t think we are cooking at home as much as we should. Don’t get me wrong, in my family, we go out to eat and even order take-out a few times a week, but it is still a special occasion. A recent study shows children are eating more and those calories are being eaten away from home. Cooking at home let’s you control what you put in your meals. You are bound to use less salt and sugar as a result. It’s reconnects you with your food. It helps you take pride in serving your family something you made with love. It is the first step in sitting down and having a meal with your family which is a critical component of family communications and keeping childhood obesity at bay. I usually look up Cooking Light recipes from MyRecipes.com if I need to shake things up a little. Strive to try one new recipe, order takeout one less day a week or sit down as a family one more night than you usually do.
Build a balanced plate
The conversion of MyPyramid to MyPlate provides us with a valuable visual tool to help spread the message of “eat more fruits, vegetables and whole-grains.” The MyPlate approach is perfect KISS message. When you meal plan, it helps you think about how to balance your plate across all categories. It makes you think twice about steaming some veggies or tossing a salad to add to that turkey burger or chicken and pasta your were going to serve alone. It helps with portion control as well. We are talking about a 9-inch plate, so there is only some much that can be piled on there. Also if 3/4 of the plate is filled with fruits, vegetables and whole-grains then there is only so much room for protein. Hopefully, it also reminds us to swap out soda for serving of low-fat dairy. If you start with a balanced plate, it really does crowd out the other stuff that is less nutritious.
Get moving and step it up
And by that I mean exercise. I don’t think it is possible to live a healthy life without exercise. You need to “step up” what ever you are doing now by getting off the couch, taking the stairs, adding 10 minutes to your walk/run or going to the gym one more day a week. You can’t do it by diet alone. There are so many wonderful benefits to exercise, I argue you wouldn’t want to do it by diet alone. It’s going to boost your metabolism, help you sleep, give you more energy and yes, you might even lose some weight while you are at it. You don’t have to join a gym – though not a bad option if you can afford it. Walking or running is a great way to start. Buy a video if you need to build your confidence at the beginning. The important thing is that you keep moving.
Finally, take charge and make a change
You need to be an active participant in living a healthy lifestyle. No one else can do it for you! Don’t be passive and let the fast food marketers and food package designers tell you want to buy. You will need to work to make it happen. This can be something small such as visiting your local farmer’s market, trying Meatless Mondays, packing your lunch or reading the nutrition label on the snack bar you have every day. It can be more more involved like looking up nutritional information on restaurant websites before you go, tracking your calories or packing snacks when you travel. Before you know it you’ll be wanting more. You might educate yourself by reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food or watching Food Inc. Maybe you’ll wanted to plant herbs or a small garden. Everyone has their own evolution, but it starts with you making one small change and then another.
It makes me think of the Mahatma Gandhi quote:
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” …and I would add “in yourself”
I’m sure every dietitian (or to-be dietitian) has their own elevator pitch depending on their experiences, but here is mine –
Cook at home, balance your plate, getting moving and be the change.
Hopefully that is KISS enough for you 🙂
Keep It Simple Clipart from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/92501682@N00/5067471752/