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Eating Right, Bite by Bite

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By Amy Good, RD, LD

National Nutrition Month focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating habits. This year’s theme, Eat Right, Bite by Bite, promotes adding variety to the foods you are eating every day, planning and eating healthful meals, and valuing our Registered Dietitians. As the Milieu Director and a Registered Dietitian at Toledo Center for Eating Disorders, I think this is the perfect opportunity to add some insight into the key messaging and understand how we approach nutrition. 

Week One: Eat a Variety of Nutrition Foods Every Day

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends we eat a variety of nutritious foods each day by including foods from all food groups in meal plans, practicing good hydration, being mindful of portion sizes, and taking time to enjoy our food.

At Toledo Center, our food model hinges on the principle that “All Foods Fit.”  It is our goal to incorporate a wide variety of foods into our clients’ meal plans each day. This may include traditional meals such as sandwiches or casseroles, as well as restaurant meals, and fresh fruits and vegetables, but it also includes snack foods, desserts, and many other items. Often our clients arrive with mental lists of which foods are “good” and which are “bad.” However, in the context of a balanced diet, and moderation, any food can fit healthfully into one’s meal plan. We work on disassembling the “good” and “bad” food lists by figuring out how those lists came to be and by incorporating foods that fall on both lists.

Another way we work on increasing one’s variety of foods is by setting food goals. Each week, our residents sit down and evaluate what areas of their eating they can create goals around, such as “I will eat ice cream two times this week,” or “I will drink fruit juice once this week with breakfast.” Food goals can also be related to how we eat, such as “I will complete my meal in 45 minutes.” The goals are S.M.A.R.T., meaning they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-specific. Setting goals like this can be a useful tool in recovery as it allows an individual to measure their progress throughout treatment.

Week Two: Plan Your Meals Each Day

Planning your meals each day can be made easier by using a grocery list when shopping, trying new recipes, planning your meals for work or school, and planning for travel.

Meal planning is a crucial piece of treatment at Toledo Center. Each day, clients sit down and plan their meals and snacks for the upcoming day. Once they are further along in treatment, they begin creating meal plans that can be used once they transition home with the help of the Registered Dietitian. Meal plans provide structure and guidance for eating – two things that are vital in recovery. Meal planning can also allow an individual to view their overall intake and ensure they are eating a wide variety of foods, are trying new foods, and are eating enough food. The long-term goal for our clients is to be able to eat intuitively and meal planning can provide support in moving towards that goal.

Many people without a history of an eating disorder, who instinctively eat intuitively, practice meal planning. Maybe you can think back to a family member or friend creating their plan for the week so that they know what groceries to purchase. This is meal planning! Meal planning is not solely reserved for those in recovery – so don’t feel ashamed of by sitting down to create your meal plans.

Week Three: Learn Skills to Create Tasty Meals

For learning skills to create tasty meals, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends individuals keep ingredients on hand, practice proper safe food handling at home, share meals with family and friends, reduce food waste, and try new flavors and food.

Eating a wide variety of foods is an important part of treatment at Toledo Center. Clients practice preparing simple meals like sandwiches, soups, and salads while using safe food handling techniques. Supervision and support are provided by our dietary team. For more labor-intensive meals provided by our caterer, clients practice proper portion sizing and eat meals family-style with peers and staff. Additionally, clients can practice restaurant meals in treatment. They can gain further practice with restaurant meals and homemade meals on weekends and during home trials.

Clients mustn’t revert to restrictive tendencies with discharge meal plans by planning only safer food options. With encouragement, education, and support from their dietitian, clients continue incorporating a wide variety of foods. Throughout the treatment process, clients will create meal plans that can be utilized after discharge. These meal plans include fresh fruits and vegetables, classic meals, restaurants, newly discovered food likes, and so much more!

Week Four: Consult a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) plays a vital role in helping with proper nutrition. Registered Dietitians must complete a rigorous educational process and earn at minimum a bachelor’s degree and participate in an accredited internship, which is a highly competitive process. Additionally, they must stay current in their field by participating in Continuing Education, and some states also require dietitians to be licensed health professionals. A dietitian can provide you with individualized nutrition advice to help you thrive through the transformative power of food and nutrition.

Dietitians can be found in many different settings and can be specialized in working with individuals with eating disorders. Individuals in recovery may find working with a dietitian especially critical as eating a wide variety of foods, and eating enough food are two vital pieces of recovery.  At Toledo Center, our dietitians help clients assess their nutritional status and provide them with personalized advice and help them set goals. Additionally, we work with clients in reviewing meal plans and provide feedback and suggestions to help them maintain recovery and feel better.

If you or a loved one would like to learn more about our evidence-based treatment, call us today or complete our contact form for more information.

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