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For This Health Reporter, Desk Diet Was An Evolution

Ja'Nel's homemade oatmeal
Ja'Nel's homemade oatmeal

I love cooking and eating.

I'm not hardcore about my diet. I rarely buy organic. Preparing a week's worth of food — or even a menu — takes too much thought and time. And I haven't given up junk food.

When I have a craving for something, I eat it. Balance, moderation and taste are more important to me when it comes to what I eat.

I'm a health reporter, so I'm well aware of how important a nutritious diet is for overall health.

But I wasn't always conscious about my own diet.

When I moved into my first apartment in 2011, I fried everything: fish, chicken, french fries, pork chops and anything else that could be breaded and dipped in oil.

By the time I moved into my second apartment in Lincoln, Nebraska, the next year, I was eating out a lot and wasting the food in my fridge.

Then I met Jacqueline Andrews.

Andrews and I share a bond as Jehovah's Witnesses. She and her family became a second family to me while I was living in Nebraska. She couldn't help but notice my poor eating habits.

So when my editors asked me to write about how I manage to bring home-cooked meals for breakfast and lunch most days, I knew I had to call Jacqueline.

"Oh, my goodness. Well, you were a little sick person when we met," she told me. "I thought, 'OK, we need to start from scratch here.'"

She and her daughter came to my apartment one afternoon and threw away all the unhealthy food in my cabinets and refrigerator. She suggested I start reading books about nutrition and check labels while grocery shopping.

“We were looking for high-fructose corn syrup, a lot of sugary, salty, processed stuff that we threw out," she said. "Yeah, we just had to start from scratch.”

I began replacing white flour, rice and sugar with healthier options such as almond flour, brown rice and honey. I also made sure I ate fresh fruits and vegetables every day.

The more changes I made, the more time I spent in the kitchen cooking new recipes. And the more dishes I prepared, the less I ate out.

Sandra Meyerowitz, dietitian and owner of Nutrition Works in Louisville, said for many people, buying breakfast or lunch is easy and convenient. But it usually leads to bigger portion sizes.

“Once you get used to taking your lunch to work, it doesn’t entail that much effort, and it really is healthier," Meyerowitz said. "And you’re in control of what you’re eating then."

Meyerowitz specializes in nutrition, weight management and food sensitivities. Since she spends her time helping people create healthier lifestyles, I decided to visit her office to find out what she thought about my diet.

Meyerowitz went through my food diary of the past week. Here's the rundown:

I ate oatmeal every morning with a piece of fruit and 34 ounces of water. For lunch, I ate leftovers every day. They consisted of homemade chicken taco soup or spaghetti. I also listed the popcorn and oranges I ate as a snack during the week.

"You’re making good choices, and it looks like you’re getting a lot of water in also," Meyerowitz said.

She did leave me with some tips: Take lunch to work most of the time. Eat a variety of foods to get seven to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Control portion sizes. And be physically active.

“I would suggest that people keep things in their desk, or if they have access to a refrigerator, just keep their area stocked with healthy items so you never really are feeling that you’re without something that’s good for you,” Meyerowitz said.

And take it from someone who makes a mean crockpot spaghetti sauce: Leftovers are always good for lunch.