March is National Nutrition Month

FRESNO, Calif.

Kathy Duffner of Tollhouse loves to try anything fresh and green, but her cooking and her eating habits weren't always so healthy.

"I ate whatever I wanted, a lot of greasy, fattening foods, sugary foods, and now I don't," said Duffner.

Before gastric bypass surgery, the grandmother and great-grandmother weighed over 300 pounds. After the life-changing procedure, she had to eat much smaller meals but still keep the flavor.

"I eat a lot of protein first and then fruits and vegetables, and I try to stay away from the breads and starches," said Duffner.

With the help of Kaiser Permanente registered dietitian Kim Tirapelle, Duffner tries new flavors when the medical center holds its weekly farmer's market.

Tirapelle focuses on flavor -- especially during the National Nutrition Month of March. She hopes more people will try herbs to add zip to their everyday dishes, instead of butter, salt or sugar.

"So cilantro is something you can chop up easily, you can add it to soups and sauces, pestos, really cilantro you can add to anything," said Tirapelle.

Tirapelle says a little olive oil and garlic will boost the taste of herbs like dill, then you can use them to sauté meat, and cauliflower can be a healthy substitute for a favorite but fattening side dish.

"Just like you would mix and chop up mashed potatoes, you can do that with cauliflower and it's a lot less calories and carbohydrates," said Tirapelle.

Tirapelle recommends making small changes to your cooking by adding bursts of flavor to your cooking instead of changing your diet all at once. That way, those small changes become good habits.

Duffner's small changes are now routine, and she's feeling the benefits of her new, good habits.

"Oh I feel great. I feel great," said Duffner.

Dietitians also say more flavorful foods encourage us to eat slower and enjoy our meals. Bland foods tend to make us eat faster -- leading to over-eating.

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