Submitted by PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center

Jendy Newman wants you to think about your dinner. Right now. Don’t wait until five minutes before dinnertime. Right… now.

“We need bumper stickers that say ‘It’s 4 o’clock. Do you know what you’re having for dinner?’” laughs Newman, a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. “Our lives are so busy and fragmented now that people aren’t taking time to plan healthy meals. It’s catch-as-catch can, and we wind up eating a lot of supersized fast food.”

Newman says organics are the way to go when choosing fruits and vegetables for your table. Photo courtesy: PeaceHealth

Newman recommends developing the habit of planning Wednesday’s dinner while you’re preparing Tuesday’s meal. “As you’re preparing a meal, ask yourself what you might do for tomorrow, too. You might be able to prep something in advance, or thaw something out, or make a note to pick up a key ingredient at the store. Training ourselves to think ahead can have tremendous health benefits.”

Newman spends a lot of time counseling Americans as we continue to get bigger. The CDC says the percentage of obese Americans has climbed from 30 percent to 37 percent in just 15 years. Newman knows where the blame goes.

“Oh, yes,” she says with concern. “We have to stop eating so much processed food!”

Americans have an abiding love for high fat, high calorie, high sugar, high sodium nutritional disasters like potato chips, French fries, candy, soda, and doughnuts. We consume more packaged, processed foods per person than any other nation.

“If a person is going to make one change, it should be to move away from processed foods toward more vegetables and fruits,” she said. “I teach my patients to find ways to fit more of them into their diet.”

PeaceHealth Organics Dirty Dozen
“The Dirty Dozen” are fruits and vegetables that are grown using a concerning level of pesticides. Photo courtesy: PeaceHealth

Once patients are comfortable with a more produce-friendly lifestyle, Newman introduces ideas about food safety, including the ‘Dirty Dozen’ fruits and veggies. “Strawberries, apples, even spinach are grown using a concerning level of pesticides,” said Newman. “When possible, people should consider purchasing organically grown members of the ‘Dirty Dozen.” She is quick to add that, if organics are not available, it is still a far better choice to eat a non-organic apple than to reach for junk food.

Not long ago, organic vegetables and fruits could only be found in specialty produce stores. Not any more. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says organic food sales have grown by double-digits nearly every year since 2000, with millennials particularly embracing the organic trend.

Anyone shopping for organic food may experience sticker shock. Consumer Reports® says the average cost for organics can be up to 50 percent higher than for non-organics, although the price variation is wide.

Organic Foods Shopping
PeaceHealth dietitian Jendy Newsman says there are options for those that want organic foods without the high price tag. Photo courtesy: PeaceHealth 

People not yet ready to pay premium prices for organics have a couple of good options. A new trend called “Eating Ugly” is taking hold, with businesses like ImperfectProduce.com delivering ugly, unloved but perfectly nutritious organic vegetables right to your door. The San Francisco-based startup has recently expanded to the greater Portland area.

For those desiring non-organics, there is heartening news. Newman says the ‘Clean 15’ list highlights 15 different vegetables and fruits that are safe to eat despite their non-organic upbringing. The list includes corn, onions, asparagus, cauliflower, and grapefruit.

Despite her focus on eating healthy, Newman says we can all still enjoy some naughty food – in moderation. “Look, I’m a dietitian, and I have a candy drawer,” she laughs. “Mostly it has dark chocolate in it. I like to break off a chunk of a candy bar and savor it. Usually I have it with fruit. Food is part of the joy of life. Just be mindful of what and how much you’re eating!”

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