There is a multi-year construction project happening at the hospital at which I work. This means that sidewalks and pedestrian entrances are blocked off.  While new paths have been created to circumnavigate the construction chaos, they are a bit confusing.  This morning, I struggled to find an easy way from the parking garage to the 2nd floor, which is where I needed to go.   I merely had to go up one floor, but the posted signs took me directly to the elevator.  I really wanted to just climb the single flight of stairs, but couldn’t find the stairwell!  I searched and found one sign towards a stairway, but the door to enter was locked and my employee badge, unfortunately didn’t grant me entry. I asked folks walking in the hallway if they could guide me to the nearest stairs to the 2nd floor, but no one seemed to know where they were located. One gentleman sort of chuckled after I approached him with my query, and said “I do know where the stairs are, but by the time I explain how to get there, it would be faster for you to just jump into the elevator with me” which, needless to say, is precisely what I did.

As I took the 10-second ride up to go one floor and got off the clunky old elevator, I began to remember how health coach, nurse, and my good friend, Kristen, often reminds me that it’s easy for a doctor like me to dole out advice on changing diet and lifestyle to make healthier choices, but actually incorporating this advice into daily practice is harder than it seems.  “Just eat real food” sounds simple, but as Kristen says, “simple” doesn’t mean “easy.”  With all that swirling around in my head, I decided to write this blog today, asking the question: “How can we make the healthy choice the easy choice?

While of course, changing the floor plan of a building is neither easy nor simple, at least when it comes to the way we eat, I do think there are a variety of tools we can easily implement into our everyday lives, to make our dietary choices healthier.

For instance, I really like the “C.A.N,” approach. These 3 letters encapsulate what researchers at Cornell University found to be the best strategy: make the food convenient (C), attractive (A) and normal (N).

  • Convenient:
    • Always have a bowl of fresh fruit out in the kitchen.
    • Have the fridge and pantry well-stocked with whole foods like cheese, whole milk, butter, yogurt, fruits, vegetables, roasted nuts, seeds, yummy homemade dips & sauces.
    • Have your freezer well-stocked with quality frozen produce, so you can thaw and use it at a moment’s notice!
    • Cook in batches, make foods for the week in bulk.  Don’t shy away from using a crock pot or slow-cooker to save you time.
    • Prepare meals and snacks in containers, ready to grab and go at a moment’s notice throughout the week!
  • Attractive.
    • Cut up fruits and vegetables into pretty shapes and arrange them in style!
    • Use decorative cooking techniques like creating colorful grilled veggie kebabs or piping deviled eggs!
    • Use pretty containers and serving dishes, arrange sliced vegetables and fruits in enticing arrangements!
    • Pack snacks and meals for school lunches in attractive lunch boxes and snack containers.
  • Normal:
    • Place the healthier foods at the front of the fridge and pantry.
    • Offer these as appetizers and first-courses at every meal.
    • Prep these into easy “go-to” servings that are ready at hand in backpacks, purses, book bags, easy to grab and go!

Let’s face it, healthful eating is not about willpower. It’s about understanding the science and then implementing life skills to set us up for success and a “CAN-do” attitude!

Simple may not easy, but with a few tweaks, we can make it so!

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