Occupational Health Strategies, Inc.
Kent W. Peterson, M.D., FACOEM
901 Preston Avenue, Suite 400
Charlottesville, Virginia 22903-4491
TEL: (434) 977-3784
FAX: (434) 977-8570
Email: OHS@HealthySelf.org

Last updated: February 17, 2009

Practical Nutrition

By Sumner Brown

1. Cooking/Preparing Your Own Food: More than half of Americans are currently obese, and one of the major reasons for this is our increasing dependence on food from restaurants, including fast-food and take-out joints. Studies show that you are virtually guaranteed to get more calories, more saturated fat and fewer nutrients when you eat food from restaurants. There are plenty of healthy things you can prepare at home in the time it would take you to sit at the fast-food window. Below this article is a list of simple, healthy weeknight ideas that you can prepare in a few minutes. There is also a list of healthy cookbook ideas. Set a goal to eat out no more than once or twice a week. Besides greatly benefiting your health, you will save money as well. You might put aside the money you save by not going out to eat and take a wonderful trip at the end of a certain period of time. Another bonus to cooking more dinners at home is that you can often have a well-rounded, healthy lunch with the leftovers. Even more calories, fat and money saved. For more help in making this happen, see principle number two.

2. Planning: Planning can go a long way towards improving nutrition. Not only that, I believe you will actually save time in the long run. Experiment with this idea: Take 30 minutes each week and plan a menu, using healthy recipes and simple weeknight ideas. Make your grocery list from the menu and go to the grocery store once a week. If you will do this each week, you will have what you need, including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and not much waste. It will eliminate the time it takes to go back to the store several times during the week, to go to a restaurant because you have no food in the house, and to try to figure out what in the world to make each night based on the hodgepodge of ingredients you have on hand. And be sure to make enough to give you great lunches! Also plan to buy healthy breakfast cereals and the right amount of fruit to have on hand for breakfast, lunch and snacks.

3. Don’t Use the Kids as An Excuse: Many people tell me they have trouble keeping away from chips, cookies and the like. The reason they say they have these around in the first place? They’re for the kids! I would argue that the kids don’t need these snack foods anymore than the parents do. More and more children in this country are obese and many even have cholesterol problems at a young age. Even if your children are active, thin and healthy, they are learning eating habits now that will follow them through life. Instead of chips and cookies, how about popcorn, peanut butter on crackers, Popsicles made from orange juice and other snacks with at least some food value.

4. Learn to Read Labels: Don’t believe the advertisements and package fronts. They can be very deceiving. Let’s take cereal: Most people would assume that “Multi-Grain Cheerios” would be a healthy cereal. Actually, it has less fiber and more sugar than the original Cheerios. It’s all a marketing gimmick. Many people proudly tell me they eat Special K for breakfast. But Special K has no fiber in it at all and fiber is the reason that cereal can be such a good breakfast. Look for a cereal with at least 4 grams of fiber per serving. There are many delicious choices and it’s the easiest way to get the most fiber. Besides looking for fiber, compare labels for fat content, especially saturated fat, and also for sodium content.

5. And speaking of cereals – Eat Breakfast!: People who are overweight tend to skip breakfast and often even lunch. Normal weight people usually eat breakfast and seldom skip meals at all. Some theories as to why this is true include the regulation of metabolism and the effect breakfast has on eating the rest of the day. People who skip meals early in the day tend to overeat at night. Breakfast is also a great time to get lots of grain fiber and fruit – something most of us don’t get enough of. Eating breakfast is also one of the habits of those who live longest and healthiest.

Eating habits can be hard to change, but take it on as a challenge! Your body will thank you for it.


(As rated in Health Magazine)


Salmon steaks on the grill or under the broiler (6 minutes per side)
Chicken breast with salsa and Large Sweet Potato
Stir-fry Frozen Vegetables on 10-minute Brown Rice – add soy sauce (could use versions with chicken or turkey.)
Black Bean Soup – Take two cans black beans with liquid, 1 can chicken broth, ˝ cup Salsa. Heat together. Garnish with chopped green onions and low-fat sour cream or yogurt.
Tortellini Soup – Saute some garlic in a bit of olive oil. Add 2 cans Chicken Broth, 1 can Chopped Tomato with juice, 1 bag frozen green beans, 1 bag frozen tortellini. Boil for 5 or 10 minutes.

Any of these can be served with pre-packaged salad and whole grain bread for a super quick, delicious and healthy meal.