Buy from the outer ring of the supermarket, where most fresh fruits, vegetables and meat are located, she said, and avoid the inner aisles.
“My one caveat is shooting down the middle aisle for beans and pasta,” she said.
When it comes to snacks, get rid of processed foods — or at least buy the ones with the fewest ingredients — and go for fruits and vegetables.
“Cherish the season,” is her motto. If kids want something out of season, it’s OK to buy frozen. Then steel yourself for some complaining and use the opportunity to convey a larger lesson.
“It’s important to teach children that you don’t always get what you want,” she said.
Unless you’re trying to lose weight, nutritionists like to avoid diets.
“We were just laughing about that, like we could sell fairy dust and that’s pretty much what a lot of these fad diets are about,” said Natalie Castro-Romero, the corporate dietician at Baptist who oversees the company’s 15,000 employees.
“One very common thing that happens is people feel overwhelmed and they need a starter to get something going, like a detox, but there’s no truth behind that.”
For some people, small changes can lead to big results.
Fourteen years ago, Juanita Ferguson, 55, had a kidney transplant. So she watched what she ate and always included fruits and vegetables in her diet.
But it was the finer points that Ferguson, a supervisor in the respiratory care department at Baptist, was missing. She bought honey wheat bread, not realizing that at her age she needed much more fiber. She was unaware of her carb intake. And she had no idea that on weekends, when she was completing chores and running errands, forgetting to eat was causing problems.
“I’d just eat once a day, but then my body would go into starvation mode,” she said.
So she developed a meal plan and discovered an app for her phone, My Fitness Pal, that she can set to remind her when to eat and what to eat.
She can also scan food to determine whether she’s met her daily need.
“So after I have breakfast and lunch, and if I’ve had too many carbs, by dinner I know I have to cut back,” she said.
And that kind of tailoring is key, nutritionists say.
“People want me to just tell them what to eat, give them a meal plan. But they’ll only follow it for two weeks,” Castro-Romero said. “So I get them to focus on the foods they’re eating now and improve. One group might be soda drinkers. So we work to decrease rather than eliminate.
“It’s really trying to keep it simple and look at small changes. I like to say small changes produce big results.”
Like using cooking sprays instead of cooking oils, she said. It’s a simple step, but substantially lowers calories.
Parents also need to be aware of the emotional toll on overweight children, Rarback warned. At Mailman, she often treats children in the gastric bypass program, so she has seen, at perhaps a more intense level, how weight can harm them emotionally. Almost all, she said, are home-schooled because of the ridicule they would face at school.
For Naar, the most important change was getting the right information about eating. With the exception of her blood pressure, she led a fairly typical life. When she wasn’t working, she was taking care of her daughter.
Free time was filled with errands and chores. She worked out, usually about three times a week. But she often skipped meals when she got busy, catching up in a single meal.
“So I had to learn how to appreciate and eat properly,” she said. “I’m a nurse and I know about it. But to take care of myself? I was oblivious … But with all the information now, you’re equipped to make the best choices.”