“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” –Hippocrates
The foods we eat will do one of two things: improve our health or detract from it. Many of us think of healthy eating as a chore, something we are obliged to do so we don’t develop chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.
Alyson Fendrick, a Registered Dietitian who lives and works in Oklahoma City, has dedicated her life to showing Oklahomans that healthy eating doesn’t have to be a burden.
Fendrick is the corporate dietitian for Homeland, which has dozens of grocery stores throughout Oklahoma. She developed Homeland’s “Get Healthy Challenge,” an annual event that encourages participants to improve their health. The 2015 challenge kicked off in October of this year with a two-day Wellness Camp at Ambassador Hotel in Oklahoma City. Attendees at the wellness camp received advice on meal planning, exercise, and how to incorporate healthy eating as a routine part of their lives. Fendrick accumulates participants’ biometric information over the course of the challenge so they can see the difference that a healthy lifestyle makes in their lives. She’s also on Fox 25 every Thursday morning, where she offers healthy recipes and lifestyle choices for Oklahoma families.
Fendrick’s desire to help people improve their health started at an early age. “I was inspired to be a Registered Dietitian after attending the World Food Prize Youth Institute as a junior in high school. After learning about global hunger issues, I knew that I wanted to make a difference and ensure everyone had access to safe, healthy food.” According to Fendrick, healthy eating doesn’t mean giving up every indulgence. “All foods can fit into a healthy diet and lifestyle. You don’t have to give up your favorite foods to have a balanced diet.”
She offers a few guidelines for people wanting to improve their nutritional intake. “I recommend people follow the federal MyPlate guidelines. First, fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Next, make sure you get a variety of colors on your plate to ensure you are getting a variety of vitamins and minerals. Be sure that fifty percent of your grains are coming from whole grain sources and that you’re getting three servings of low fat or non-fat dairy products every day.” Follow those rules, Fendrick advises, and your diet will definitely progress.
Educational outreach is a big part of Fendrick’s work as a dietitian. “Homeland has many community partnerships throughout the year. Our biggest is our Sponsorship for NBA Care’s Thunder Fit Program. The program promotes moving more and eating healthy to middle school and high school aged kids in our community,” Fendrick explains. “We have been a sponsor for the past 8 years; they allow me to provide nutrition education to the students during Thunder Fit programs.”
The diets of many Oklahomans are the product of environmental factors; many were raised in households where parents never made healthy choices and passed those unhealthy habits on to their children. As a result, Fendrick spends a lot of time instructing people on how to make healthy choices, even on a budget. “For example, most people don’t know that frozen, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables provide just as much nutrient density as fresh ones,” she explains. Improving food choices doesn’t have to be complicated, she adds. “The simplest thing people can do to improve their diet is to include more fruits and vegetables. When you are filling up on wholesome foods, there’s less room for junk food.”
She also cautions against placing too much faith in one diet over another. “Many of the trending diets have focused on eliminating food groups. I do not believe this is a healthful way to eat, as each food group provides quality nutrition for our diets. There is no such thing as ‘one best diet.’ Each individual is unique and has unique nutrition needs. What works for one person, may not be the best for someone else.”
When asked what community leaders can do to improve the state’s health, Fendrick focuses on promoting physical activity. “I think the best thing lawmakers can do is to help provide recreation spaces that encourage physical activity and ensuring we have safe and usable sidewalks.” She understands that changing your lifestyle all at once can be intimidating, and that it’s not easy to talk to loved ones about improving their health. “Be encouraging and set a good example. Be the one who brings a healthy option to the party or keep fruits and veggies on hand for snacks. Most people will follow the lead.”
Follow Alyson’s healthy living tips on her facebook page, Alyson Approved.