8 Healthy Eating Tips from Registered Dietitians – TODAY

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March is National Nutrition Month. To celebrate, I tapped a few registered dietitians (RD) for their best nutrition advice. The prompt was simple: What’s your No. 1 tip for healthy eating that you want everyone to know?

Believe it or not, the answers are incredibly simple and straightforward. Not a single dietitian recommended following a diet or restricting calories! As a matter of fact, these tips are about adding more foods to your plate and building well-balanced meals.

Eat more plants, in any way possible

My top nutrition tip is based on my own experience as a registered dietitian and vegetarian for more than a decade: Add more plants to your plate at every single meal, in any way possible. Whether that means blending greens into a smoothie, adding black beans to tacos, using minced mushrooms in your burger or simply adding a yummy side of corn to your main dish, there are plenty of ways to get plants in your meals. 

Not only do plants boost the flavor of most meals, they also provide ample health benefits. Research suggests eating more plant-based foods may play a role in prevention and treatment of heart disease, cancer, obesity and osteoporosis. It’s no surprise since plants are the major source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Change your mind on processed foods

“It’s time to let go of the thinking that all processed food is bad,” says Elizabeth Shaw, registered dietitian, certified personal trainer and author of the “Air Fryer Cookbook For Dummies.”

In fact, processed simply means prepared,” she tells TODAY.com. Many processed foods — like frozen fruits and vegetables, canned beans, yogurt, and soy products, like tofu and tempeh — are actually quite nutritious.

Shaw says that many Americans are missing out on important nutrients, like fiber, potassium and vitamin D, and many processed foods include those nutrients. That said, research shows that eating an abundance of ultraprocessed foods, like soft drinks, sugary baked goods and frozen entrees, may increase the risk of many negative health outcomes, such as respiratory, gastrointestinal, metabolic and mental health issues.

If you’re unsure how to tell the difference between processed and ultraprocessed, Shaw says that researchers classify ultraprocessed as foods that consist of multiple ingredients that have either been extracted or derived from foods , like oils, fats, sugar, proteins, hydrogenated fats, modified starches, or those made in a laboratory.

Follow the MyPlate method 

Jessica Jones and Wendy Lopez, registered dietitians, certified diabetes educators and co-founders of DiabetesDigital.co, have used a simple nutrition tool with thousands of clients: MyPlate.gov.

“The concept is simple: Dedicate half your plate to non-starchy vegetables, a quarter to lean proteins, and another quarter to whole grains, (and don’t forget) to incorporate healthy fats for added vitamins and satiation,” they tell TODAY.com via email. “It’s a brilliant strategy for balancing blood sugar levels, maintaining steady energy throughout the day, increasing fiber intake, and ensuring a wide range of nutrients in your meals.”

Plus, the MyPlate tool fights against restrictive diets by showing off what to add to a plate rather than take away.

Don’t overcomplicate nutrition

Abby Langer, registered dietitian, is known for busting nutrition myths on social media and sharing her realistic approach to healthy eating. She believes that nutrition shouldn’t be complicated, and her social media posts often call out those promoting restrictive diets or selling cure-all supplements. She says that the key to nutrition is to “eat as many whole and minimally processed foods as possible, (including) lots of plants, and get adequate fiber.” Langer also recommends eating a variety of foods, and most importantly, “food should be enjoyed.” It’s that simple. 

Lose the diet labels

“Your relationship with food is just as important for overall wellbeing as the nutrition in your food,” says Cara Harbstreet, registered dietitian and owner of Street Smart Nutrition. She suggests ditching the diet labels and adopting a more flexible approach to eating. “Instead of strict food rules or temporary fad diets, base your food choices on your lifestyle, taste preferences, and budget,” Harbstreet tells TODAY.com. 

She explains that nutrition isn’t always black and white and her favorite phrase when it comes to healthy eating is “for the most part.” In other words, nutrition extremes don’t work, and flexibility helps you create a healthy mindset around food.  

Think of each meal as a new beginning

“My tip is you can always add nutrition at any meal or snack,” says Dalina Soto, registered dietitian and founder of Your Latina Nutrition. “I always tell my clients this because they beat themselves up if they don’t eat a fruit or a veggie at a meal.”

Soto recommends looking at every meal as an opportunity to start fresh and add more nutrition to your day. In addition, she challenges clients to think about nutrition from a culinary perspective. “What fruit or a veggie would elevate this dish or make it taste better?” is a common question she asks clients. And she’s a big proponent of adding salsa to a dish for another serving of veggies — yum!

Always eat with a table, plate and chair

“It’s a game-changer to eat all of your meals, snacks and desserts from a plate while seated at the table,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, registered dietitian and author of “The Superfood Swap.”

“It naturally makes the experience more mindful and more joyful than eating at the computer, on the couch, or standing in the fridge,” she says. Putting your food on a plate also encourages you to eat slower and chew the food more thoroughly, which is linked to more meal enjoyment and lower incidences of obesity.

Beware of imposter food and nutrition experts (especially on social media) 

“So many people are spreading misinformation about food and nutrition, making it seem as if every convenience food, everything considered ‘processed,’ and anything that is not ‘approved’ by someone is going to lead to your health’s demise,” says Christy Wilson, registered dietitian and owner of Christy Wilson Nutrition. “Nutrition is a science, not an opinion,” she says. 

Wilson recommends getting nutrition information from credentialed experts like registered dietitians, whose education and training is specific to these exact topics. In addition, beware of anything that promises to make quick drastic changes to your health or body, as well as extremist terms, like “toxic,” Wilson advises.

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