Healthier eating habits taught in free classes at USC Verdugo Hills hospital

GLENDALE, Calif. (KABC) -- Mindful eating is just one way that the experts at USC's Verdugo Hills Hospital say can jump-start a healthier way of life.

They've created a free, 10-session program to bring people to the table for smart lifestyle changes.

"Our whole purpose around mindful eating and this year is that we're doing it to give people more tools than just to count calories, to get on the scale, the daily grind sort of way," said Deborah Weirick of USC Verdugo Hills Hospital.

"What we eat actually physically impacts our health, our mood, the way we feel. Makes us think a little bit deeper about the choices that we make," said dietitian Megan Tancredi.

Tancredi and her staff chew the fat on basics like portion control and boosting produce intake. But they realize the mental game is extremely important.

"We're going to pour out the serving size of cereal we eat in the morning and then we're going to pour the portion proper and compare. That helps us put us in a mindset, 'Well I've consumed this much of let's say added sugar or this much carbohydrate,' if we need to carb count and we're diabetic, so that helps us set the mood and the tone for the rest of the day," Tancredi said.

Non-calorie counting tips like eating with intention are also discussed.

For example, putting phones and other devices away and creating a delicious setting for your meal.

It's important to remember that food is fun, so make every time you eat an occasion. Make it special.

"Rather than driving in the car trying to eat, or eating over the sink, by slowing our pace, we're able to enjoy our food. We turn off distractions," Tancredi said.

Other tips: Don't eat out of the bag. And literally plan on what and how much of a treat you will have during a celebratory event.

"Stay present so you can enjoy that tasty treat and connect with the moment. If it's a huge cupcake enjoy half," Tancredi suggested.

Label reading, protein needs, fighting the flu, even wallet-friendly meals are just a few of the free nutrition bites offered in this series that runs weekly on Wednesdays at the hospital.
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