by Anne Goetze, RDN, Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council

It’s fall, school is back in session and the YOW Challenge has entered into the last round of competition.  Are you in?  Hope so!

One of the challenge questions each week is, “How many times did you make a healthier food choice?”  YOW offers up a full menu of suggestions each month to help you make those choices, everything from attending a nutrition talk to trying a Food Hero recipe.  Results from earlier challenges show that YOW participants are making healthy choices more often, an increase of 10% during the Spring (2nd quarter) competition.  Hats off and congratulations!

For final quarter motivation, I’ve compiled some fresh ideas. Nine of them, to be exact.  We’ve all heard most of the common recommendations like, “eat more fruits and vegetables,” “choose whole grains,” “drink 8 glasses of water every day,” and so on … I decided to search out some more real ideas.  For inspiration, I took to the halls of my workplace to query my colleagues.

As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I often shy away from asking people about their personal eating habits when in a casual setting like airplanes or social events, mostly because it can make people feel just a little uncomfortable.  In this case, my colleagues took a little warming up, but then the ideas started flowing.  Once they realized they didn’t have to say what they thought I wanted them to say, they gave me some very concrete examples of healthier choices they make each day.  Here’s the best for you:

  • Choose chewy grains, because chewy grains are more likely to be whole grains. If your jaw gets tired, you know you made a healthy choice.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Drink water early and often, and take it with you on the road or in your pack.  How to know if you are drinking enough?  If you have to go to the bathroom often and your urine is light colored, you probably are getting enough.
  • Make coffee at home or order a simple latte – save money and skip the sweet calories in “fancy” coffee drinks. Let the natural sweetness in milk satisfy you.
  • Blend up a smoothie for a quick snack – make it with milk or yogurt to satisfy with a boost of nine essential nutrients.
  • Choose cottage cheese as a lean protein source. Not-your-grandmother’s-salad anymore, cottage cheese is a center-of-the-plate, quick and convenient protein for any time.
  • Order extra tomatoes and lettuce on sandwiches, tacos or even burgers. Add vegetables whenever you can.
  • Make milk or water your go-to drink – skip the high calorie sodas, sweet tea and juices.
  • Fix-up your take-out chicken from the grocery store. Add a bag of salad, fruit and a loaf of chewy bread or rolls.  Pour a glass of milk and you’ve just made a healthier choice.
  • Use the “one less” rule – have one less cookie, one less handful of chips or candy, one less high- calorie beverage … you get the idea. When in doubt, stop short.

Making a healthier choice means something different to each person.  It’s an individual thing, but shouldn’t be overly complicated or daunting.  Even small steps are still steps in the right direction. It simply can be about the little choices you make each day that will add up to make a big difference in how you feel and function.

Good luck in the fall challenge.  Now go make those healthier choices!

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