The key to healthy living

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Healthy eating shouldn’t feel like work. If it feels like work, you’re going to have trouble committing for the long-term.  Eating healthfully should be part of a happy and positive lifestyle.

When I counsel patients in my office, one thing I always make clear is to eat healthy foods that you enjoy. I have had so many patients come to me stating that they hate water, chicken, and broccoli, and therefore, healthy eating is not for them. My response is, “well, what foods do you enjoy eating?” Whatever the answer, the foods that you enjoy eating can be made healthier through small changes.

For example, if you like grilling, add some grilled vegetables to the menu. If you like roast beef, add more carrots. If you like fry bread, eat half, instead of a whole one.

Healthy eating is not about doing it one hundred percent all the time. It is about finding a balance for yourself and being consistent. For the most part, we should be eating more fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains, and being active. But for the rest of the time, it is ok to not be strict. The most important thing is being consistent.

Healthy eating is a skill, like anything else we learn in life. It takes practice and time to find out what healthy activities and foods that we enjoy doing and developing those skills to help us live healthier.

Food is much more than the nutrients in them. Food brings us back memories of grandma cooking in the kitchen, family gatherings, and birthday parties. We also eat food based on how we feel. Maybe we had a bad day and that tub of chocolate chip dough ice cream will help us feel better. The food we eat is also determined by how much we can afford and our cooking skills. If all we can afford is ramen noodles and know how to boil noodles, then that is what we are going to eat.

When I was growing up, the only pancakes I knew came out of a box, and spaghetti was a staple for dinner.  As a family who couldn’t afford luxuries, we ate foods that were inexpensive and easier to prepare. These foods were usually higher in sugar, fat, and salt.  These were the foods that I grew up with and enjoyed.

But as I learned more about nutrition and food, I realized that I enjoy healthy foods. I enjoy eating healthy because I found the food and activities that make me excited to do it. I enjoy gardening and jogging with my dogs, and I am happy when I am cooking with the music playing loud. I love the taste of freshly picked produce from my backyard and trying new foods at restaurants so I can copy them at home. But I still continue to enjoy pizza and green chili cheeseburgers.

If you aren’t sure where to start, try out a new activity or new “healthy” food. You never know what you might end up liking.

Denee Bex is a Registered Dietitian and advocate for healthy traditional diets and home-grown foods within Native American communities.  She can be reached at Denee.Bex@gmail.com.

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