WINCHESTER, Va. – When people decide to change their lives by eating healthy, it's not always easy.
"We make healthy eating out to be something that should be instant for everyone, and it should be perfect for everyone – but healthy eating is hard." said dietitian nutritionist Carlene Thomas.
One of the hardest things about it is figuring out what's actually healthy. Many people face their first set of challenges at the grocery store.
"It is very overwhelming to walk down the aisle and see all these packaging claims and all of this information that maybe they're not used to seeing, and maybe can't decipher," Thomas said.
Thomas added that shoppers should actually pay attention to products that they're usually most drawn to when trying to make healthy choices. Even if packages say sugar free, fat free and gluten free, it doesn't mean they're free from other unhealthy ingredients.
"What you want to do is pick up the packaging, flip it over and read the ingredients," she explained.
Thomas said reading ingredients may make your trip to the grocery store longer, but if you want to know what your putting into your body, it's time well spent.
"Sometimes, there will be a chemical substitute for that sugar in there that you really don't want to eat, or there will be something in there that isn't a good choice for you despite what the packaging may look like on the outside," Thomas said.
Once you get your healthy ingredients into the grocery cart, you have to face the kitchen.
Healthy cooking instructor Susan Dolinar says many people start off with great things, like a salad, but the dressing can make the meal unhealthy.
"If you're picking a sweet Catalina or French, there's a lot of sugar," Dolinar said. "And if you're trying to cut sugar, that's not the one to have. If you're trying to cut fat, you may not want to do a ranch or a blue cheese."
Dolinar says when making healthy eating choices, there are four things people should keep in mind.
"Start with simple recipes – make sure you have a scale and measuring cups."
And the fourth is that you have to find and do what works for you.
"Everybody's different," Dolinar explained. "Just because your best friend has lost weight eating a certain way, you can eat similarly, but if you don't like that food, you're not going to stick to that diet. Find something that you like and work in moderation."
Thomas and Dolinar are both partners of Taste of Blue Ridge, working to provide food education and local food experiences to Virginias' Blue Ridge Mountain Region.