By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Office of Public and Employee Communications

The room was packed with people looking to learn more about proper nutrition during a recent Wellness Workshop hosted by CDCR’s Employee Health and Wellness.

A representative from Kaiser Permanente discussed the benefits of healthy eating and easy ways to help you succeed.

Using the basic “plate” concept (more information available at, about half the plate should be vegetables, a quarter fruits and healthy grains and the last quarter of the plate should be a lean protein.

Eating healthy foods can improve your overall health, help you manage your weight, increase your energy level and prevent many chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

She said people looking to improve their nutrition need to change their behavior.

“Knowledge alone isn’t going to change the behavior,” she said. “Desire isn’t going to affect outcomes. Saying ‘I really want to lose weight but I don’t want to exercise or eat healthy’ isn’t going to change anything.”

She said the key is to have achievable, measurable goals with some accountability from a solid support system.

Using the SMART method can help on the health journey. SMART is the acronym for the following five steps:

  1. Set a goal
  2. Monitor your progress
  3. Arrange your world for success
  4. Recruit support
  5. Treat yourself (but not with food or beverages)

She said the goal could be something as simple as adding more vegetables to your diet for two weeks to start.

“It’s reasonable,” she said. “It’s not like saying up front it’s for the next six months.”

Monitoring your progress could be as easy and putting a star or a smiley face on a calendar after you complete your goal for that day.

Arranging your world could mean you prep your vegetables on Sunday for the work week ahead and package them in to-go containers, labeled for each day, with a reminder note pinned to the refrigerator. Or it could mean setting an alert on your cell phone.

Recruiting support is asking someone for help, preferably someone who wants to see you succeed. Ask them to contact you daily to check on your progress and to give you positive reinforcement.

Finally, when you’re reached your goal, treat yourself. She said it could be a manicure, a golf-related item or something else based on your personal non-food hobbies.

“It’s like when a child gets a gold star in school. It’s recognition,” she said.

Control portion sizes

A portion of rice or pasta is 1/2 cup, or about the size of a tennis ball. A piece of bread or tortilla should be about the size of a CD. A 3-ounce serving of meat or fish is about the size of a deck of cards.

Focus on fruits and vegetables

Add one extra fruit or vegetable to your diet each day until your have reached five or more. Choose a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables, either fresh, frozen or dried. Add flavor to vegetable dishes with a sprinkle of olive oil, herbs and spices, and a little grated cheese. When using canned items, look for low-sodium vegetables and fruits packed in juice rather than syrup.

Choose lean proteins

Eat meat, poultry or fish that’s been roasted, baked or broiled without skin. Choose smaller portions of lean red meats and eat them less often.

Check the oil

Avoid partially hydrogenated oils or trans fats, which are found in some margarine brands, processed snacks like crackers, chips and cookies and deep-fried foods.

Cook with healthy oils, such as olive or canola oil, and use transfat-free margarine. Try avocado slices or nuts in salads.

Avoid temptation

If it’s not in your cupboard, you won’t be tempted. Make a grocery list to help you buy healthier foods. Substitute healthier foods (such as fresh fruit) for foods with lots of added sugar. Read labels. Try not to shop when you’re hungry.

In a nutshell

Eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains (like whole wheat bread and brown rice), beans, peas, lentils, unsweetened dairy products, fish and lean meats.

Eat less fatty meats like sausage, hamburgers and poultry with skin; processed snacks like chips, cookies and cakes; fried food; sweetened beverages like sodas, fruit drinks and lattes.

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