LONG ISLAND, NY – They say the American diet has changed more in the last 20 years than in the last 200; with the rampant rise of the chain restaurant scene in modern times, more people than ever are leaving the wholesome home-cooked meals of yesteryear and indulging in all manner of delicious yet nutritionally-bereft cuisine on a regular basis.
Dietitian with North Shore Long Island Jewish Health Systems Samantha Greenberg has been involved in the intense study of the average American diet – and how to improve it – for much of her life, and it’s all due to the lessons imported upon her by her mother while growing up, she said.
“I’ve always been interesting in food and healthy eating,” she said. “My mom was a nursery school teacher, and she always taught about the Food Pyramid chart, and that got me thinking about food…later, when I went to school, I took Nutrition and I just fell in love with it.”
Greenberg, a Manhasset Hills resident, recently held a lecture called Healthy Eating in the Modern World at the Syosset Public Library. The event was aimed at schooling attendees on how to make healthier choices at the dinner table, but this can be a difficult prospect, she noted, as the average person spends far more money and time eating out at restaurants and fast food establishments than in their kitchen making home-cooked meals where they’re aware of each and every ingredient in what they’re eating- because they themselves put it in there.
But even if you’re making the choice to eat out on a regular basis, Greenberg said, a little know-how can help you navigate to the healthier options on the menu.
“There are many ways to eat better when you go out, but you have to know what to look for. Most people think a salad is healthy, but then they choose a Cesar salad covered in cheese and dressing instead a packed salad with green leafy vegetables,” she said. “Plus, you need to stick with baked or grilled foods over fried ones. Order steamed vegetables instead of ones drenched with butter, or ask your waiter for whole wheat pasta or brown rice.”
Greenberg also eschews fad diets that make fantastic and unrealistic claims; chief among the current crop of offenders is the new national campaign against gluten, which gained exposure with the rise of Celiac disease, a condition where the lining of the small intestine can become damaged due to issues digesting gluten; those suffering from Celiac disease must refrain from ingesting gluten in its many forms, but the fact that this eating regimen has been adopted by healthy people as well for no good medical reason is something that is completely unnecessary, Greenberg said.
“Gluten-free diets are only for people who have Celiac disease…there is no benefit whatsoever to a normal person, but some people think that gluten in and of itself is a bad thing when it’s really not,” she said. “And most of the time, gluten-free foods don’t’ even have fiber – they don’t have whole grains, because that is where the gluten is – so it’s not even filling. So you’re getting all those calories and it’s not even filling you up for giving you the fiber that you need. There’s no benefit to avoiding gluten if you don’t have Celiac disease.”
Other aspects of healthy eating that Greenberg covered – whether you’re at home or on the go – involves making sure that you’re adhering to proper serving sizes, drinking the recommended amount of water each day to maintain hydration, and eating a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, and fruit; once you’ve determined your ideal daily calorie intake levels, either by a doctor or a dietitian, it’s much easier to establish a healthy – yet still very enjoyable – daily eating plan that will get you on the road to looking and feeling better.
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