Last week, this column addressed some common reasons that are given for why people do not eat as healthily as they could. This week, we will look at a few more of these, along with some ideas to get people thinking more about how they can, instead of how they can’t change their eating habits for the better.

Last week, this column addressed some common reasons that are given for why people do not eat as healthily as they could. This week, we will look at a few more of these, along with some ideas to get people thinking more about how they can, instead of how they can’t change their eating habits for the better.


Some people excuse their poor eating habits by saying that they just don’t like the taste of healthier options or that their kids won’t eat it. The interesting thing about food preferences is that we like the foods that are familiar to us. Take milk as an example. Many of us of a certain generation were brought up on whole milk. Even the thought of 2 percent, let alone skim milk was quite off-putting to us. I would imagine that the majority of us now drink either skim or low fat milk, and we actually prefer it. Our tastes change over time, and we get used to and often prefer the new food. This is common to all foods and all ages. If this is an area where you would like to make improvements, start slowly. For example, if you’re trying to introduce whole grain bread, use one slice of white and one slice of whole grain in a sandwich. Mix white pasta with half whole grain. Half white, half brown rice. Gradually increase the healthier option. If you bake your own cookies or muffins, try cutting back on the sugar by one third, or reduce the fat by one fourth. In most recipes, except scratch cakes, this will work without sacrificing flavor or texture.


If you want your child to try a new vegetable, introduce it a few times without making a big fuss about it. Studies have shown that sometimes it can take up to 10 exposures to a new food for a child to try it. If they see you eating and enjoying new foods, they are much more likely to have a good attitude about trying it and liking it.


Here are some really easy ways to eat more healthily without putting forth too much effort. First, replace some (or all, if you’re game) of the soda you drink with water. Start with flavored water if you absolutely have to, but watch out for hidden sugars or artificial sweeteners in those products. If you were drinking two bottles of soda a day and replace them with water, you just saved yourself 500-600 calories. You also just did your teeth a favor.


Another fairly painless change is to reduce your portion sizes. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, portion sizes served in restaurants in this country have tripled since the 1970s. Unfortunately, many of us have followed that trend at our dinner tables. Again, start small so you don’t feel deprived. If you are used to two scoops of something, reduce it to one and a half scoops next time you eat that food. If you eat a plateful of spaghetti, either use a smaller plate or cut back the amount by one third, including the sauce and the cheese. Use the extra space for a little more salad or a vegetable. So you still get to eat it, just eat less.


When it comes to desserts, either eat fruit instead, or cut back the portion size. It helps if you serve it, then immediately put the remainder away, out of sight, until the next day. Out of sight, out of mind and much less temptation to have “a little bit more.”


I hope some of these suggestions seem doable. Change is rarely easy, especially when it comes to something as personal as the food we eat. If you need motivation, Google “diabetes complications.” Then look up heart disease, or talk to someone who has had a triple bypass and ask them how that experience was for them. Yes, it can happen to you, but it doesn’t necessarily have to. It’s up to you.


 


Pam Maxson is a health educator at Noyes Hospital in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles, she can be reached at pmaxson@noyes-hospital.org or 585-335-4327.