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Jump start your health focus: A Q and A with NAH Dietitian and certified diabetes educator Shannon Heffern, RDN

Q. How can I make 2020 my healthiest year yet?

A. You have the power to lengthen your life by making smarter choices! One important thing is not to follow a “diet.” You need a way of eating that’s sustainable. U.S. News & World Report, which ranked Flagstaff Medical Center a No. 2 hospital in Arizona – looked at the top 42 diets in America, and they concluded that the Mediterranean way of eating was best in terms of ease, flexibility, affordability and taste. There has to be a synergy between all these things to make a way of eating work. This particular style of eating involves structuring the food groups for overall health – whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and plant-based oils. Alcohol, sugar, and processed foods are all in moderation.

It’s like what Grandma said, you need to eat your vegetables first – that way, you’re too full for sweets. People want a magic pill, but it’s all up to behavioral change. About four small meals every three to five hours throughout the day should be our focus, not calories.

Q. What are some easy first steps?

A. Exercise! Also, carefully consider alternatives to fad diets, like the keto diet. Eating breakfast is also a big opportunity – a little dose of carbohydrate, protein and fat within two hours of waking up will jump-start your metabolism. In addition, most people aren’t getting 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day – which is part of the Mediterranean way of eating.

In our country, we have much to learn about basic nutrition and the six essential nutrients – water, vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and fat. People go by their first Google search and believe they have found a “food expert.” A lack of education about nutrition is a serious problem. Proper nutrition is foundational to overall health and wellbeing.

Q. How do I make an appointment to see an NAH dietitian for help and guidance?

A. Please call Outpatient Nutrition Services at 928-773-2084