Tips for Maintaining A Healthy Diet

A Healthier You

Tips for Maintaining A Healthy Diet

Staci NormanContributor: Dr. Staci-Marie Norman, PharmD, DCES

Welcome to June!!! The sun is shining, the outdoors is calling, the grill is ready to be fired up, and we may have a few quarantine pounds to shed! The timing is right to talk about nutrition and how to eat healthily. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to maintaining healthy eating, it must be simple, or I just cannot do it long term. And this is something I have learned about myself through trying a lot of different “diets”. You name it, I’ve tried it and have been successful, but continuing long term is where it all falls apart. What I keep coming back to is really an amazingly simple concept, and when it comes right down to it, eating like my grandparents or great-grandparents would have.

The two basic concepts of maintaining a healthy diet start with the basic ingredients. We should be eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats or other proteins, low-fat dairy, and mainly unsaturated (good) fats. By steering clear of processed or prepackaged foods, we can avoid large amounts of sodium, higher fat content, and typically more calories per serving than if we pull together simple meals from these basic ingredients.

The second part of maintaining a healthy diet is PORTION CONTROL! This part is extremely important and is hard to do in the age of super-sized fries, burritos as big as your head, big gulps, endless pasta bowls, and king-sized candy bars. Our perception of a real portion size is distorted. I have got the perfect way to not only get the portions under control but also plan a healthy meal. My secret weapon is the Plate Method. Think of a plate and divide it in half, then divide one side into half again, so you have two quarters. Fill the large half with "green, leafy" vegetables such as lettuce, kale, asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, etc. Notice potatoes, corn, peas, and squash were not listed. These are starchy vegetables that must be thought of as a starch- not as a vegetable. You can fill the first quarter with a starch. So, this is where you can put bread, rice, potatoes, corn, peas, squash, tortillas, rolls, or pasta. The second quarter section is where the protein fits, the meat, poultry, fish, beans, or eggs. Sound easy enough? It really is, but there are two caveats;

  1. The plate can only be 9 inches across. Think about the cheap white paper plates with the ruffle edges - those are 9 inches across. Take a look at the plates in your cabinet because the typical dinner plate is 12 inches, and the salad plate is 8 to 9 inches.
  2. The plate can only be one level - no skyscrapers! If that cheap white paper plate isn't strong enough to hold your food, you have piled too much on your plate.

These two points will help to keep the portion sizes correct.

Here are some examples of meals using the plate method compliments of my daughters Instagram @foodflaneuse:

Easy enough, right?

Last but not least, I want to leave you with some easy “rules” to make grocery shopping easier so you can put easy, healthy, portion-controlled meals together in a flash!

  1. Do not Shop Hungry
  2. Make a List and Stick to It
  3. Try to stick to the Outside Aisles (produce, meat, dairy, bread)
  4. Buy a Rainbow of Color when it comes to produce
  5. Try a new produce item weekly

Food Label Reading:

  1. Look at SERVING SIZE
    • Everything listed is based on the serving size
  2. Calories per serving
  3. Total Fat
    • Ideally 0% Trans-fat
    • 30% of your daily diet should come from total fat, so at the very most the total fat should be 30%
    • 10% or less of your daily diet should come from saturated fats, so at the very most the saturated fat should be 10%
  4. Total Carbohydrates
    • Dietary Fiber should be at least 3 grams per serving
    • Sugar should be no more than 10 grams per serving
      • The exception is milk products
  5. Ingredient List
    • First items listed are the most abundant in product
    • Avoid products with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils at the beginning of the list
    • Avoid products with Corn syrup, high-fructose, or high-sucrose sugars/syrups at the beginning of the list
    • DO enjoy products with whole grains listed near the top.

Fruits and Vegetables:

  1. The darker the color, the more nutrients
  2. Eat a rainbow of color
    • Red- Vitamins A and C
    • Yellow- Vitamins A and C
    • Orange- Vitamins A and C
    • Green- Vitamins A, B, C, and E
  3. Try a new produce item at least weekly
  4. 3-5 servings per day minimum


  1. Always buy whole grain
    • At least 3 grams fiber per slice
    • 1st ingredient should be whole wheat, whole grain or multigrain
    • Don’t be fooled by color- check the food label


  1. 12oz of fish or seafood/week
  2. A rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids
    • Coldwater fish such as salmon, tuna, striped bass are best

Meat and Eggs:

  1. Lean cuts of meat
    • 90% lean ground beef (or better)
    • Skinless chicken or turkey breasts are best
    • Pork chops and lean cuts of red meat, such as sirloin, are good
    • Avoid sausage, bratwurst, bacon, and hotdogs
  2. Eggs are a great, cheap source of protein
    • The fat they contain is low
    • Yolks due contain cholesterol, so if on a restricted cholesterol diet, follow your doctor’s recommendations


  1. Avoid Trans-Fats and Hydrogenated Oils
    • Look at food labels under the Total Fats to see if Trans- fats are listed- ideally, they should be 0%
    • Look in the ingredient list on the food label to verify no hydrogenated oils- code for trans-fats!
    • Margarines are more likely to have trans-fats, the more solid the margarine, the more trans-fat it contains


  1. Milk - only difference is amount of fat and calories
    • Nutrients are the same
    • Should drink 1% or Skim milk
  2. Other Dairy products
    • Same rule- low or no-fat products

Frozen Foods:

  1. Prepackaged Meals
    • Beware of Serving Size
    • Look at Fat Content
    • Watch Out for Sodium levels
  2. Frozen Fruits and Veggies
    • Great alternative to fresh
    • Watch out for extras - such a sauce

Canned Foods:

  1. Fruits
    • Packed in Own Juice is the best choice
  2. Vegetables
    • Look for low or no sodium packing


  1. At least 3 grams fiber per serving
  2. Look for no trans-fats

Dr. Staci-Marie Norman, PharmD, DCES received her bachelors from Purdue University (’94) and her Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Oklahoma (’96). In 2000 Dr. Norman added to her credentials by becoming a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. She is currently the Clinical Coordinator and staff pharmacist for Martin’s Pharmacy. Dr. Norman is a national faculty member for the American Pharmacist Association, teaching certificate programs in both diabetes and cardiovascular disease. She serves on the advisory board that oversees development and revision of these programs. Along with teaching and development responsibilities for APhA, Dr. Norman serves as a peer reviewer for research grants and publication submission. Dr. Norman has also spoken for Abbott, Bayer, Lilly, Mannkind, and Lifescan as a diabetes specialist.