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Dietitian puts emphasis on eating mindfully

Twenty-four-year-old Mike Palmisano knows what it’s like living with a mom in the nutrition field.

“My son always said as he was growing up that he will never marry a dietitian, he can’t do this again,” said Patricia Salzer, a registered dietitian and health and wellness consultant with Univera Healthcare.

“He’s dating a vegetarian.”

Salzer, 51, grew up and still lives in the Utica area. She fans out during her work life into several parts of the state, including Western New York. She worked as a hospital dietitian for 15 years before joining Univera a decade ago.

“I really wanted to be on the other side, to help people be healthy and avoid hospitalization and complications from chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease,” she said. “To be more proactive than reactive.”

What are the three most important things you’ve learned about healthy eating during your career?

To eat mindfully, to truly give our attention to what we’re eating and not be distracted, as people are at their computer or watching TV or driving. When we’re distracted while we’re eating, we don’t feel as satisfied, so we’re likely to eat more. That’s really my No. 1 tip, which ties into No. 2: balance and variety and moderation.

You can eat pretty much anything as long as you watch the portion size. I don’t deprive myself. I really enjoy dark chocolate. If I have that small piece, and truly enjoy it and am mindful as I eat it, I can be satisfied with that one piece of chocolate. I do tell myself, ‘I can have it all, just not today.’

That brings me to my next tip: Set up an environment to have healthy foods available. Life gets in the way as we get really busy, and tired, and have so many commitments. If you come up from a long day of work and have no idea what to do for dinner, it’s so much easier to call for pizza. If I have a well-stocked, healthy pantry, and healthy foods in the freezer and refrigerator, and a plan for what I’ll be eating, it makes such a difference.

What are the staples of your diet?

Lots of vegetables. They’re just so versatile, whether it’s a salad or a stir fry. I love roasting vegetables. It really enhances them and brings out some of the natural sweetness.

Whole grains. I do quite a bit of quinoa. This week, I also did another grain called sorghum. Millet is another grain that I enjoy.

– Scott Scanlon

See related story on healthy Super Bowl party eating, Page 7