How to Help Someone Make Dietary Changes
Start with the basics to make dietary changes
Change is hard at any age -- and it gets harder as we age and get set in our ways. Yet someone dealing with a chronic condition such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease may be able to avoid a health crisis by improving her eating and exercise habits and making other lifestyle changes. Of course, she first needs to be ready and willing to change.
Here are some ideas to help you and the person in your care get started on dietary changes.
Keep a record.
Before a person begins to make changes, she needs to have an honest account of what she eats and when. It's easier to find patterns -- like that 3 p.m. craving for something sweet -- when there's a written log of everything that's consumed in the course of a day. She should carry a food notebook so she can easily keep track of what she eats, and then figure out what unhealthy habit she wants to confront first.
Look for small ways to break big (unhealthy) habits.
Maybe her whole diet needs a major makeover. That's not going to happen overnight. But find one thing she might be willing to do to eat better and start there. Perhaps she'll agree to add green vegetables to dinner. Or cut down on saturated fats at each meal. Or work fresh fruit into her food choices. Take it step by step.
Set realistic goals.
If she mostly eats fast food, she's not about to become a farmers-market fanatic just because you tell her she needs to eat better. Instead, ask her how she could improve her diet and then help her come up with a clear plan to make it happen. Say something like, "Let's eat a home-cooked meal together twice a week" -- and, if necessary, offer to get the groceries and whip up something for dinner that's delicious and nutritious. Such a proposal is specific and doable.