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Six tips for running the race of good nutrition

Posted by on Friday, March 4, 2011 in Features, March 2011.

by Leslie Hill

Life is a marathon, and eating a nutritious diet provides the fuel to get safely and happily to the finish line.

Marilyn Holmes, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., manager of Health Plus, has been a dietitian for more than 35 years and is president-elect of the Tennessee Dietetic Association. She says the prevalence of food in our culture makes proper nutrition a challenge.

“In our country, most of us are surrounded by food that is so readily available. You can just run to a vending machine, or on the drive home from work, you can decide you are hungry and just pull into a fast food place,” she said.

“But it is important to remember that the food you put in your body is your fuel. It’s what gives you the energy to do everything you want in life.”

Holmes offers these six tips for being nutritionally fit:

Power up daily.

Be sure to eat a nutritious breakfast every day to fuel you for the long haul of your day. Without breakfast, you may hit the wall.

“Breakfast” literally means to break your fast. It’s the first meal of the day after an overnight fast, and it can set the nutritional tone for the rest of your day.

“If you don’t eat breakfast, you may overeat later because you are hungrier, and you can be so hungry that you will make bad choices and just grab whatever is easy and available,” Holmes said.

She cites data from the National Weight Control Registry that shows that people who have lost weight and kept it off over time eat breakfast every day.

A burrito ( is a great start to the day and many can be made ahead and reheated in the microwave for a quick breakfast.

Don’t overdo it!

Maintaining a healthy weight is a balancing act of the calories you take in and the calories you burn off. Be sure that the road you choose includes appropriate portion sizes. Offset that occasional indulgence with increased physical activity and burn, baby, burn!

“I encourage everyone to be active at least 30 minutes most days of the week,” Holmes said. “It helps burn calories, reduces stress, makes you feel good and gives you balance in life.”

To manage portion sizes, Holmes said it’s not necessary to measure every single morsel that enters your mouth, but offers some simple guidelines:

1 serving of meat = a deck of cards or the palm of your hand

1 serving of grain = a hockey puck

1 serving of nuts = a golf ball

1 serving of raw fruits or vegetables = a baseball or the size of your fist

1 serving of cooked fruits or vegetables = half of a baseball or fist

1 serving of oil = 1 die

1 serving of cheese = 4 dice

“Once you’re familiar with proper portions in your cooking at home, then you can go out to eat and know when you have been served too much and can decide to take some home for later,” she said.

In this recipe for Florentine Ravioli ( the pasta is divided into four portions before serving so no one overdoes it.

Cross train.

Eat a variety of foods that include lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, unsaturated fats, low-fat dairy and whole grains.

No one food provides all the nutrients a body needs, and variety is crucial to a proper diet. Holmes said the secret is finding ways to incorporate foods in a way that pleases you and will keep you coming back for more.

“If you don’t like vegetables that much, get them through juices like V8 or incorporate them into things. If you’re making lasagna, shred some carrots in and you’ll never know they are there. Tomato sauce is also a way to increase your nutrition from vegetables and even choosing a carrot muffin can get some vegetables in your diet,” she said.

A veggie pizza with whole grain dough ( is a delicious way to eat a variety of vegetables.

Stay hydrated.

Choose to quench your thirst with nutritious liquids. Water and skim milk are great options to select. Avoid sugary drinks that just add empty calories.

Holmes said some people consume as many as 1,000 calories a day just in liquids. She recommends sticking to water and juice and avoiding beverages like sodas and sugary coffees that only add empty calories.

“The carbs in sugary beverages are digested first, giving you only empty calories. And then they may not even quench your thirst,” Holmes said. “If you don’t like the taste of plain water, add lime or lemon or packets of sugar-free flavor crystals.”

A fruit smoothie ( is a delicious drink, and even makes a convenient breakfast.

Keep your focus.

Remember that an occasional slip-up is not the end of the world. Acknowledge that we are all human and get right back on track.

“Nutrition is for the long haul, so everyone expects some wavers along the way,” Holmes said.

If you know you’re going to a party, Holmes recommends making better choices during the day so you can indulge a bit when you’re out.

“Then when you’re at the party, enjoy but don’t overdo it. Take the smallest brownie in the pan instead of the largest,” she said.

Holmes’ favorite no-guilt special occasion treat is an angel food cake with pineapple. Simply prepare an angel food cake mix according to the package and stir in a 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple and bake. Once cool, frost with non-dairy whipped topping.

“It’s such a beautiful cake, and I make it every time we

celebrate something in our office,” Holmes said. “Most everyone is thinking about wellness and nutrition, and it’s important that we support each other in that and have healthy options at our celebrations.”

Finish strong.

Remember that foods and beverages are for nutrition. Aim for nutrient-dense choices to make you feel great for the long run,rather than empty calories.

Holmes said a good rule of thumb is the deeper the color, the more nutrients a food has.

“If you color up your plate and make your food beautiful, it will be more appealing and appetizing,” she said.

This stir fry recipe ( includes yellow pineapple and red bell pepper. Add snow peas or broccoli for even more color and nutrients.

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