Food and eating are two of my favorite things. In fact, those are two of the reasons I became a registered dietitian. I've always been interested in trying new foods and I constantly think of what my next meal will be. My family and friends seem irritated when I talk about food so much, yet strangers frequently ask me about my eating habits and what healthy foods to choose. I usually answer questions based on my own experiences. Admittedly, sometimes I wish I didn't know so much about nutrition because then I would find eating even more enjoyable! However, I am happy that I am able to educate people on healthy eating while consciously choosing foods that are right for me as well.
My meals change on a daily basis to prevent boredom of eating the same thing all the time. The hardest meal for me to plan is breakfast since I have little time to prepare a hearty meal. A good breakfast will include protein and fruit (for fiber) in order to keep me fuller longer. Breakfast is very important because it provides me with energy for the day and prevents me from overeating at the next meal. Additionally, my last meal was the night before, so my body needs to be "refueled" with energy to help me perform at my best and keep me going throughout the day.
Fiber One cereal with skim milk
Fiber One cereal is high in fiber which helps prevent high cholesterol and constipation. There are many fiber-rich cereals to choose from that are great in taste with added benefits of vitamins and minerals. Most people need 25-35 grams of fiber daily which can be difficult to do when eating only fruits and vegetables. Having cereal with milk allows my body to benefit from calcium and protein. Choosing skim milk is something I had to learn to get used to. I drank whole milk for most of my life but stopped during college because my roommates only drank skim milk. Although it took some time, it was worth the struggle. Skim milk provides the same amount of calcium and protein as whole milk but with no fat and only 90 calories per serving. The taste is different but after mixing whole milk with skim milk for a few weeks, I had adjusted to the new flavor. I typically add fruit to my cereal for extra fiber and vitamins. I only had blueberries in my refrigerator this morning but any fruit can be added to cereal for that extra vitamin and antioxidant boost. If I'm not hungry early in the morning, I bring fruit or dry cereal with me for a quick snack later on in the morning.
For lunch, I usually bring leftovers from home. In addition to saving me money, leftovers help me with portion control. At dinner the previous night, I make just enough so that each person can have two meals.
2 slices of pork tenderloin, seasoned with pepper and mustard
Salad with vinaigrette
Water to drink
Pork provides a great source of lean protein and is quick and easy to prepare. Pre-season pork with pepper and add mustard for the tart and salty flavor. Mustard is low in fat and is a good option for sandwiches instead of mayonnaise, but be careful not to put too much since it is high in sodium which can lead to high blood pressure. I bake pork since it is healthier than frying it. Other cooking methods such as broiling, grilling or steaming are also good ways for preparing meals since these options are lower in fat. I always include a side dish of a carbohydrate and/or a vegetable. The easiest is fresh salad or frozen vegetables. When I'm in a rush, I use pre-washed bagged salad and add tomatoes, canned corn (drain juice) and shredded cheese. Corn and cheese add color and flavor to the salad without a lot of fat. I don't typically use dressing, but if I'm in the mood, I'll add some olive-oil vinaigrette for monounsaturated fatty acids which help prevent heart disease. I love water. I rarely drink anything else with my meals because I like water so much. If you're not a water drinker, try adding lemon or lime for some flavor. An occasional diet soda or juice is fine since it helps when you crave sweets.
Steamed white rice
Vegetable stir-fry with ground turkey
I'm tired by the end of the work day so I try to make dinner as simple as possible. I always use ground turkey instead of ground beef because it is lower in fat, and to me, tastes the same. Afterwards, I add frozen vegetables and soy sauce for a simple tasty meal. Frozen vegetables have the same nutrients as fresh vegetables, but frozen vegetables are much more convenient since no prep work is involved. Although soy sauce is very high in sodium, it adds so much flavor that I don't need to add other seasonings to my food and I try to limit how much I use. I love white rice because of the texture and taste but brown rice has more fiber. However, since I have so much fiber during the day, I don't think I need as much at dinnertime.
A typical day of eating doesn't get much more complicated than that. During the day, I snack on fruit and sometimes cookies. After dinner, I enjoy a dessert of yogurt with fruit or ice cream. Keeping my body well-nourished before bed is important since I will not be eating until the next morning. There is no harm in occasionally splurging on sweets or other unhealthy foods because it helps keep cravings under control. I always tell patients that having a SMALL piece of cake is not a huge problem as long as they are meeting their nutritional needs through other foods. If I continually crave a certain food, I may end up overeating or consuming a large portion that will probably make me feel sick afterwards. Always remember that eating is supposed to be an enjoyable activity.
Rhea Li is a registered dietitian who received her bachelor's degree in nutrition and Master's degree in Public Health from the University of Texas. She has a special interest in working with children and has received her certification in pediatric weight management. Currently, she is working on a research study to determine the importance of nutrition in pediatric cancer patients. In the past, she has worked with pregnant women and their children. In her spare time, she enjoys being with family, exercising, traveling and of course, eating. If you would be interested in working with Rhea one-on-one, sign-up for FitDay Dietitians.