“You are what you eat” may be an oldie but it remains a goodie. Science proves there’s a strong connection between what you eat and your overall health.1 In fact, food can be used as medicine to treat chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, inflammation and even cognitive decline.2
But when the temptation of not-so-healthy food choices rears its head, “you are what you eat” can be all too easy to forget. In those situations, all you need to remember is the number one. Here’s why.
What is healthy eating? One rainbow per meal.
Think of healthy eating as a rainbow on your plate that emphasizes fruits and veggies, lean proteins, whole grains and dairy products.3 Think about what you can add to your plate to make it more colorful. Red bell peppers, pink salmon, carrots, yellow squash, dark green spinach, blueberries or eggplant. Try to add more colors to your plate at each meal. Having eggs at breakfast? Add a few slices of tomato and avocado. With your lunch sandwich, switch out those potato chips for carrot sticks with peanut butter for some crunch and to satisfy your savory craving. Roast some veggies to go with your main course at dinner.
Many people struggle to get enough healthy food to fill their plates. Discover resources to help here.
How can you make healthy eating simple? One-ingredient foods.
When it comes to healthy eating there’s nothing simpler than one-ingredient foods, which are also called whole foods. An egg, apple, oats or chicken are all a single ingredient in its natural state. Processed foods, on the other hand, have been altered in some way during preparation with the addition of preservatives, flavors, salt, sugars or fats.4 Examples of highly processed foods include sugary drinks, cookies, chips, breakfast cereals, some frozen dinners and lunch meats.4 If you see a long list of ingredients you can’t pronounce, you’re probably looking at a processed food item.
How can you eat healthier? One small change at a time.
Shawna Bowen, certified wellness coach with Vera Whole Health, recommends people start small because “little steps lead to the big win” when it comes to healthy eating. That small start could focus on a single meal like breakfast or a single step like eating more whole foods. She cautions not to make changes that feel like huge shifts overnight. “If it feels so overwhelming, people may get discouraged,” she says. “Don’t think all or nothing. It’s about progress, not perfection. And we can choose a healthier option at every meal. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don’t. It’s a practice of eating healthier.”
How can you get support in developing healthy eating habits? One wellness/health coach.
A wellness/health coach can help you identify your current eating habits and help you develop healthy practices when it comes to food. In a value-based care setting, a wellness/health coach may be part of the provider’s care team (providers in other care settings may also offer the services of a wellness/health coach.) Typically, the nurse performs screenings, the doctor analyzes those results and makes recommendations, the behavioral health specialist helps the patient with their mental state and the wellness/health coach assists the patient in maintaining their health and adopting everyday healthy lifestyle choices—like healthy eating—that help prevent chronic illness.
Shawna says she tries to meet patients where they are on their health journeys and create habits that feel doable to them. She looks at three things with her patients:
- What they’re eating
- How much they’re eating
- Why they’re eating
“We work with the patient to determine if they are eating too many processed foods or too much food in general. And if they’re eating not to relieve hunger or provide energy or nutrition but instead out of boredom, loneliness or other emotional reasons.”
As a certified wellness coach, Shawna is much more interested in moving the dial in a way that feels approachable and easy to maintain with her patients. She wants to help her patients give their bodies what they need for “for their muscles, bones, joints and brain function to stay as functional as possible for as long as possible” because healthy foods are “chockfull of stuff to support your cells.”
Shawna helps her patients brainstorm ways to overcome cravings and rearrange their schedules to accommodate healthy eating practices. She also encourages her patients to vent about their frustrations and stress points. “I have the conversation about priorities and what my patients can make time for. I gather information about their personal culture around eating. I get to know my patients on a personal level.”
Did you know that some providers in Humana’s network offer value-based care, and that you may be able to work with a wellness/health coach at no additional cost to you on certain plans? Find out if you have the right care for you here. Learn more about value-based care and why it might matter to your health here.
Looking for more health and wellness ideas? Check out our additional resources here.