By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — What’s on your plate?
That’s the question dietitians, nutritionists, and even the Niskayuna Town Board hope you’ll ask yourself this month.
March is National Nutrition Month, established by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and officially recognized in a ceremonial resolution by the town of Niskayuna at the end of February. The aim of the month each year is to encourage people to take a close look inside their refrigerators and pantries and decide which eating habits should stay.
Sarah Ender, dietitian at ShopRite’s Niskayuna store, first had the idea that if the town recognized Nutrition Month, more people might pay attention and participate in a few weeks of dietary self-reflection.
“I just really wanted to make the town aware that we’re available,” said Ender, who helps people with everything from meal planning and working around allergies to reading nutrition labels and choosing between cereals. She said many people don’t realize her services at ShopRite are free.
“It really allows people to seek out what they need personally,” she said.
Ender, a Troy resident, graduated from Niskayuna High School in 2006. She said she often sees her former teachers and tennis coaches while she’s at work, doing cooking demonstrations, conducting taste tests, and offering advice.
Recently, she visited lacrosse players at Iroquois Middle School, of which she is an alumna.
“It’s those little things like that,” she said, that are satisfying.
“You’re helping someone feed their family and meet their goals for a healthier life,” she said.
Ender said people often have questions about advice they’ve absorbed from the Internet, magazines, television or friends.
“I lot of people come back week after week and month after month because they’ve heard something new,” she said.
But the advice she gives most often rarely changes: avoid liquid calories such as sodas and sugary coffee drinks, and don’t skip breakfast.
“Gradual weight loss is the healthiest way to lose weight,” she added, noting that weight concerns are the initial reason many people come to her.
Another Niskayuna nutrition expert offers an eating philosophy with few rules that she said often works for people who haven’t found success with restrictive diets.
Tamara Flanders, a holistic health counselor who runs her business, Make Peace with Food, from her Niskayuna home, encourages people to try simply eating what makes them feel good.
“It’s really a philosophy or a type of relationship you can have with food,” she said of her approach. “You eat what your body is telling you it needs to be healthy and well.”
Her advice is something most dieters have never heard: eat whatever you want.
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, well, if I let myself eat whatever I want I’m just going to eat brownies all the time,” Flanders said. “You’re not, because you’re not going to feel good. It’s not sustainable or desirable for very long.
“Go ahead and have it, and eat it mindfully,” she continued. “When you’re mindful and intentional about it, there’s no room to feel guilty.”
Flanders said she thought national nutrition month in Niskayuna would be an excellent way to help nudge people toward healthier decisions.
“It’s never going to hurt to send a message to people in your town to say, ‘Hey, let’s think about better nutrition,’ ” she said. “It’s a good conversation starter with kids, if it’s on a billboard or in a newspaper… awareness is always good.”