Personalize Your Plate: Gauge Your Hunger
As a registered dietitian, I often get the phrase “You should make me a meal plan!”
Although Registered Dietitian Nutritionists possess the proper education and licensure to plan meals and diet plans for individuals, there is one thing that lacks if we simply give a standard meal plan without explanation– personalization. Nutrition is not a one-size-fit all part of your health and includes things like cultural components, traditions, and of course, our favorite tastes! It is important to understand these factors before implementing changes in our diets. Utilizing a dietitian can help you make small changes that improve your health for long-term success without overwhelming your life.
March is National Nutrition Month with this year’s theme being “Personalize Your Plate.” It is important to tailor your health and nutritional needs to what works best for your routine, which is often why individuals are unsuccessful in their “diet” attempts. Quite often fad diets are too restrictive or overall lack variety, which can lead to our bodies feeling run down and deprived. Most trendy diet plans also do not account for diversity in our population.
Eating should, and can be enjoyable if we listen to our bodies. No one truly wants to cut out favorite foods or dread eating unappealing meals. Using a hunger scale (see below) is one small step to help us listen to our bodies and can be an excellent tool to practice portion control. When we’re hungry we have physical signs to hunger (stomach growling, shakiness, weak). This is a physical indication that our bodies are letting us know we need to eat. A good rule of thumb is to eat when you are hungry (1-2) and stop eating when you are satisfied (5-6). Avoid eating when you are starving as we often have a tendency to overeat. Eating beyond the satisfied range can result in an overabundance of calories. Practice gauging your hunger using this scale before, during, and after your meals to reconnect to your body and help sustain your energy.
While dietitians love to help their patients and clients get on track to eating better for their health, it is ultimately our role to help individuals create their own skills to translate into life-long habits. This includes helping identify barriers, understanding your nutritional needs, recognizing personal goals, knowing your time schedule, and figuring out cultural and traditional needs. We gladly work with patients in all these areas so they will be able to plan their meals to fit their desires. So yes, a dietitian will absolutely help you develop a meal plan for all of your unique needs!