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Small Changes are Key to Sustaining a Healthy Lifestyle

Julie Funk, MS, RD, CDE, LDN
Director, Community Health and Wellness Services
Chester County Hospital

Many of us have put off our resolutions to improve our diets by hunkering down with comfort foods and recovering from the big “food holidays” all winter long. Now that Spring has arrived and Summer is just around the corner, now may be the time to get back on track. But where to begin?

A good first step is to think about where you are going. The goal of this food journey is small, sustainable changes that lead to having healthier meals at least 80% of the time. The benefits of eating healthier meals include achieving or maintaining a healthy body weight, and reducing your risk for heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. Taking on this goal means choosing foods that are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, and are low in fat, salt and sugar. Translated, this means more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy and fewer processed foods filled with empty calories.  

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, getting to a point where you are eating a healthy diet most of the time doesn’t happen overnight either. A good place to begin is incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet. These are foods most of us are low in, but they pack a host of benefits. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that we need at least two cups of fruit daily and should eat vegetables throughout the week from sub groups that include dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy vegetables and other vegetables. Sound difficult? It doesn’t need to be. Just look for ways to modify meals you already enjoy. Below are some easy suggestions to help begin your journey to eating healthier:

  • Think in colors! Aim for three colors at every meal. An example is dinner with GREEN beans, RED peppers in a salad and an ORANGE roasted sweet potato along with the rest of the meal.
  • Think ahead. Cut up a batch of peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots etc. and have them on hand for snacks (dip in hummus or low fat ranch dressing).
  • Make and freeze vegetable soup in lunch portions. Using low sodium broth as a base, try minestrone, tomato, bean or garden vegetable soups to get an extra serving in each day.
  • Instead of ground meat in tacos, use beans, rice, onions and peppers.
  • Grill veggie kebabs (onions, peppers, summer squash and mushrooms).
  • Make bean soups and chili with less or no meat.
  • Grill vegetables and serve over pasta.
  • Get creative with your salad and add a variety of colorful vegetables and even fruits.
  • Mix fruit into low fat yogurt.
  • If you drink juice, make sure it is 100% fruit juice.
  • In a hurry? Buy frozen vegetables and add to your favorite dish. Just avoid added sauces.
  • Have fruits between meals for a snack.
  • Mix greens and fruits into smoothies.
By making some of these changes you will naturally begin to reduce fat and calorie intake and fill up on more nutritious foods, helping with weight management.  
The Occupational Health Center has programs to help your employees learn more about healthy eating and weight management. These programs include:
  • Healthy Living Seminars (one hour lunch seminars)
  • Healthy Healthfully in a Busy World
  • A Plateful of Prevention
  • Heart Healthy Nutrition
  • Weight Management Program
  • Weight Matters (multi-session program)

If you are interested in finding out more about these and other programs, contact Sara Pevoto at 610.738.2455. 

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