Thought for food: Lifestyle changes key to maintaining a healthy diet


MOSES LAKE — There’s a lot of information about food, a million different diets, meal plans, menus. It can be a challenge to know what to eat.

Devin Town, dietician and nutritionist at Samaritan Healthcare of Moses Lake, said there are some basic guidelines to eat to the best advantage.

“I would recommend whole foods as much as possible; the less processed, the better,” she said. “Vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains rather than refined grains. Some fish, small amounts of meat, like beef and pork and poultry, moderate amounts of dairy, all on top of an active lifestyle.”

Diet is part of a larger picture, Town said.

“It’s really about making healthy lifestyle changes, not a diet, per se. It’s just choosing healthier things more often and less healthy things less often. It can still include some of your favorite foods, just maybe not as much, or as often. It doesn’t feel as restrictive that way.”

There’s that moment – usually around the New Year – when people resolve they will drop those unhealthy eating habits and henceforth eat right. No more cheese curls, just steamed broccoli and roasted fish. And that may work, but there may come a day when that diet seems too restrictive.

Town suggested a more gradual approach.

“Baby steps,” she said. “Start small, doing the things you feel you can tackle first rather than cutting out all your favorite foods and depriving yourself of those things.

“I would probably start with trying to cut out, or to cut back on, processed foods, foods with added sugars, beverages with added sugars, and incorporating more fruits and vegetables. And if you’re less active, increasing your activity. It all works together,” she said.

To be permanent, changes need to be acceptable.

“I would think about what’s going to be sustainable,” Town said. “Is this a lifestyle change you want to make indefinitely? Because many times, if you can’t sustain it, then any weight loss or health improvements may not be maintained. But if it’s something you think you can maintain, then it may be more successful than something more drastic.”

People who are looking at different options should make comparisons, Town said.

“Look at what you typically eat, compared to whatever diet or diet restrictions you’re looking at, comparing the two, and seeing how far off is this diet you want to go on, compared to what you are doing, and does it look like something you can do?” she said.

A healthy diet can have room for restaurants and restaurant food in it, Town said.

“I think the biggest thing with eating out is that portion sizes tend to be extra large. Be mindful of that,” Town said.

There are resources to help people make some of those evaluations. Town recommended the website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, www.eatright.org, and information on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website, www.myplate.gov.

The old USDA food pyramids of 40 years ago have been replaced with a dinner plate. The USDA’s My Plate focuses on the whole meal, rather than the individual components of a diet, Town said.

The USDA recommends about half of that plate should be fruits and vegetables, with smaller amounts of proteins (meat and fish, among other things) and dairy. Grains should be whole grains.

Of course, food choices play a major role in overall health, and nutritionists and dieticians are trained to help people figure out the diet to help them meet their goals, whether it’s weight loss or managing a condition, or just overall good health.

Town said she’s been interested in nutrition and its role in health most of her life.

“As an athlete in high school and college, I think that played a role. It became an interest, and I wanted to help people lead more healthy lifestyles. I also have a degree in exercise science, so they kind of work together,” she said.

She has been working at Samaritan since November 2020.

“I see patients on an outpatient basis, primarily, so I see patients who are referred by their doctors for various reasons – weight loss, diabetes, GI (gastrointestinal) issues, kidney disease, heart disease, all kinds of things,” she said.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at [email protected]