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Nutrition 101: Simple Steps to Better Health

Issue 33

Meeting your health and nutrition goals doesn’t have to be a struggle. We’re here to simplify it for you. With small shifts in our eating habits, we can all be on our way to taking simple steps toward better health.

Stay Hydrated

Hydration is important for good digestion, controlling hunger, and maintaining overall wellness. It’s not necessary to be strict about the exact amount of fluid you have daily. A simple indicator that you’re well-hydrated is if your urine is pale yellow.

If you find plain water unappealing, consider adding fruit. Or try alternatives such as flavored sparkling water, herbal teas, or other calorie-free drinks. Remember, the water content in fruits and vegetables also counts toward your hydration goals!

Manage Blood Sugar

If you’ve been warned by your doctor about a potential risk for diabetes, don’t be overwhelmed. Becoming stressed about it can make it harder to control your blood sugar levels. You are empowered to lower your risk, no matter your age or family history.

One useful approach is to eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. Try combining carbohydrates (whole-grain crackers, carrots, or bananas) with dietary fats (such as almonds) or proteins (such as a cheese stick). This will slow your digestion, reduce blood sugar spiking, and help you maintain even blood sugar. Try it out—your taste buds will also thank you.

Improve Digestion

Many of us experience digestive issues that can cause discomfort. If this sounds familiar, try not to be upset. There are several steps you can take to reduce these symptoms. Start by ensuring you’re drinking enough fluids.

Next, check your daily fiber intake — it should be between 25 to 30 grams daily. Adding probiotics to your diet can also make a big difference. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that support a healthier gut, improve digestion, and can reduce stomach discomfort.

You can find probiotics in fermented foods such as kefir (a fermented milk drink), unpasteurized sauerkraut (look for labels that say “raw”), kimchi, and yogurt with live cultures.

Lower Your Cholesterol Interestingly, the steps you take to improve your digestion can also help manage your cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is broken down into two parts: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

To make it easier, LDL is referred to as “bad cholesterol” and HDL is known as “healthy cholesterol.”

To specifically target cholesterol, focus on reducing your intake of saturated fats, which are often found in full-fat dairy, higher-fat meats, and certain oils such as coconut oil. What are higher-fat meats? Pork belly, sausage, dark chicken meat, and ground beef that isn’t at least 85%/15% (which indicates 15% fat).

At the same time, aim to increase your HDL (healthy) cholesterol through physical activity. Be sure to include more healthy fats in your diet from sources that include vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, and fish. For more information and recipes, check out our Good Food, Good Choices section at:

Become a More Mindful Eater

Meeting many of our health and wellness goals begins with becoming a more mindful eater. Be present during meals. A good way to do this is to remove distractions such as your phone or TV, which can make it hard to focus on your eating experience.

Try eating slower, focusing on how hungry you are before you begin eating, and stopping when you are satisfied, not just when your plate is empty. The adage “my eyes were bigger than my stomach” comes to mind, and it is easy to fill your plate with more food than your stomach needs. Set your leftovers aside as a snack for later or pack it up as a lunch for the next day.

Control Emotional Eating

Once you’ve become a more mindful eater, you are on your way to managing emotional eating. Identifying emotional hunger is the first step. Emotional hunger is a type of hunger that comes quickly (one moment you weren’t thinking about food and now you are). It feels urgent and is usually a craving for something specific (food that’s crunchy, sweet, or salty, for example).

The other important thing to know about emotional hunger is that it isn’t related to a sensation of hunger in your stomach, therefore you won’t ever feel full when you emotionally eat. However, after emotional eating, you may feel guilty or uncomfortable. If you’re experiencing emotional hunger, try to identify what else you’re feeling and seek other ways of settling that emotion.

Plan and Prep Your Meals

Meal planning and preparing is the foundation of a nourishing, supportive eating plan. It’s also the key to reducing waste and saving money at the supermarket.

Begin by looking at your calendar and considering what the upcoming week looks like. Do you have late nights or busier days that make it difficult to prepare meals? Are there days when you have time to prepare more than one meal?

Then examine what you have on hand and what needs to be used before expiring. This will help you decide what to cook. The result will be a shopping list that matches your needs, supports your lifestyle, and ensures you can make nutritious meals.

Boost Your Energy

Feeling sluggish? Eating small, balanced meals every 2 to 3 hours can stabilize your energy. Include a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to keep your energy levels consistent. It may mean that your meals are smaller to accommodate balanced, intentional snacks without overconsuming your daily calories.

Next, try to avoid added sugars in your diet. They are digested quickly and don’t sustain energy.

Snack Intelligently

I love snacks. Snacks sustain our energy between meals, control hunger, and help us meet our daily needs. Snacking though, isn’t about grazing or just grabbing something nearby.

Ideally, snacks are intentional, planned, and deliberate (just like our meals). By eating this way, we can fuel our bodies throughout the day.

Focus on Overall Wellness

Let’s become more mindful eaters, slow down to consider what drives our eating habits, and make sure to plan and prepare nourishing meals. When this is the focus, we’ll feel better and likely reach an ideal body weight, too.

Every change, no matter how small, moves you closer to your wellness goals. Keep going — you are doing great!

Allison Stowell
Allison Stowell
Allison Stowell MS RD CDN serves as a dietitian for Hannaford Supermarket. The Hannaford Dietitian team offers free online classes, in-store tours, and more for the communities it serves. Visit for more information.

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