Healthy Living and Nutrition Optimization: Monica Hudec

I cannot stress the importance of listening to your body.  Not only on topics related to nutrition but and just about everything in your life.  

Monica Hudec

As the youngest of 5 kids, I lived an active childhood which sparked my interest in healthy living and nutrition.  This interest led me to obtaining my B.S. in Dietetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  

I have worked in a variety of healthcare settings including a nutrition assistant for student athletes, a dietary aid in the long-term care setting, and as an intern for a Medical Naturopath. 

With first-hand experience in providing nutritious meals for student athletes, I assisted in developing recipes that were balanced and provided enough energy for healthy athletes working out 2 times a day.  

In contrast, working under a N.D. (Naturopathic Doctor), I assisted in creating nutritional plans for those with compromised immune systems, cancer patients, and food intolerances. 

Working with a variety of clients, I gained real experience with nutrition in the lifespan and the way we fuel our bodies changes based on our individual health status. 

In my free time I am a runner, cyclist, and a podcast feign.  Feel free to reach out to me directly for questions, comments, or even just to say hi!


Healthy Living Habits for Optimizing Nutrition

With nutrition being a hot topic, there many fads, trends, and diets out there defining certain foods as “bad” or “good”.  These diets make healthy eating hard because of all the rules and stipulations.  

Eating for your overall health should not have defined rules and procedures, but instead should focus be on eating nutritious, real food.  

Today, there is a large amounts of information in the media telling us what healthy living is from people who have little to no background in nutrition at all!  

Eating a healthy, colorful diet is hard work and involves creating habits leading to make healthy eating easier and consistent for your long-term health.  

Rather than providing short-term diet strategies, that don’t develop healthy living habits, below are some tactics from my experience as a nutritionist, to help guide long-term healthy eating which supports healthy living.

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Eating Based On Your Hunger Cues

Eating based on your hunger cues can reduce the risk of overeating, emotional eating, or eating out of boredom.  Being conscious of your body and present in your eating experiences is known as intuitive eating.

The idea behind intuitive eating is increasing your awareness when you are truly hungry, rather than focusing on calories, carbs, fats, and protein in order to best manage your weight and overall relationship with food.

Eating is an emotional process and emotions can sometimes distract your hunger cues, leading to over-consumption.  Therefore, practicing self awareness when it relates to eating is important.  

Although intuitive eating sounds quite easy, it is best to start with small steps–take notice of how you feel before you eat and after you eat.  

Increasing your awareness on your body, you may discover that you respond better to certain foods, which can help you make smarter decisions about food in the future.

Understanding what reacts well with your body takes time and the best way to find out is to ask yourself how you feel right after you eat as well as 2 hours after your last bite.  Do you feel nauseous, energized, tired?  

Try creating a food log with a column listing what you ate and another column describing how you felt with the time since the meal.  Some healthy eating steps to take are:

  • Eat slow – take the time to sit down and chew your food.  As you eat slower, you taste your food and tend to enjoy it more.
  • Listen to your body and when it is full.  Even when we feel our stomachs expand after eating, it takes time from the first bite of our food to signal to the brain that we are satiated, or full.
  • Drink water with meals.  Drinking water can slow your eating and provide the sensation of satiety, ensuring you don’t overeat.

Eating Whole Foods for Optimum Nutrition 

The multi-billion dollar supplement industry makes money off health claims and “quick fixes” for weight-loss or other glamorized health benefits; however, eating whole foods is an affordable and effective long-term strategy to obtain essential nutrients and manage weight.  


For instance, companies label products as “superfoods”, “disease-fighting”, to lure consumers into believing these supplements are healthy.  (Fun fact: In the US, supplements are presumed safe until proven unsafe whereas in Europe, dietary supplements only enter the market if they have first been proven safe).  These products are not only overpriced but may be misleading.

Many of the health claims made by expensive supplements or products, are attainable from food directly from mother nature.  The best examples of whole food are the foods that don’t require any ingredient list like apples, spinach, beans, and nuts.

Whole foods are different than real because they only include one ingredient whereas real foods contain 5 or less ingredients.  Eating whole foods as much as possible is best.  However, it’s not always accessible based on where you are and what you’re doing.  

This is why planning and preparing for your day is most effective for healthy eating.  Meal prep is a good start for eating healthy at work or on-the-go.  Some things to think about:

  • Avoid foods with ingredients that you can’t pronounce or recognize.
  • When grocery shopping, stick to the outside rim of the store for fruits, vegetables, meats, etc (non-packaged items).
  • Replace fizzy sodas with seltzer water.  Seltzer water is not only sugar-free and carbonated but it can help you feel full.

Eating Out

Eating out should be thought of as a treat and not an everyday occasion.  Restaurants want to make as much profit as they can.  Therefore, restaurants may use the cheapest ingredients that are not necessarily nutritious when preparing food.  

Cheap food products usually contain a high sugar content and other additives/preservatives that strip nutrients to ensure a longer shelf life.  

Restaurants tend to give large portions, making it easy to overeat without even noticing; therefore, eating based on your hunger signals and simply being aware of your body can help guide the process when eating out.  

It is difficult to follow strict diet guidelines given that many special events like weddings, birthdays, and holidays are surrounded around food.  So, instead just focus on what your body is telling you and go with your gut (pun-intended).

Lastly, eating healthy and healthy living is a process, and one mistake won’t ruin your diet.  Remember, tomorrow is a new day!  Some other tips when dining out or at a special occasion:

  • Drink water only
  • Scope out the menu beforehand
  • Ask for dressings on the side of meals
  • Choose side salads instead of french fries
  • Share a meal
  • Caution yourself when choosing “specials”
  • Avoid foods with descriptive words “creamy, crispy, fried, battered”
  • Choose foods that are “baked, sauteed, steamed, grilled, braised, boiled”
  • Eat half the meal at the restaurant and bring the rest home

Eating A Balanced Diet

A balanced diet comprised of nutrient-dense foods is most effective for long-term healthy eating and healthy living success.  While there are benefits to diets reducing carbs, it can be difficult for people to maintain this diet. 

So, it is best to create diet patterns that best align with your healthy living lifestyle.  

Eating nutrient-dense foods with a mix of macronutrients (carbs, protein, fats) will keep you full and reduce your cravings to unnecessary snacking.  When hungry, have a glass of water to ensure you really are hungry to prevent snacking.  

In addition, allowing yourself to indulge every now and then is encouraged! Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Eat a colorful diet (purple cabbage, carrots, sweet potatoes, arugula, etc).
  • Avoid fat-free. These items usually take out the fat and replace it with sugar.  Fat helps us feel satiated and full after meals.
  • Gluten-free products are not necessarily “healthier” if you don’t have celiac’s disease or a gluten intolerance.

Nutrition and Healthy Living is Individual

A big point I want to make is, understanding that everyone is individual and nothing is absolute.  We are all created in different ways that even the best research can’t explain. Before you start making radical diet changes based on the latest study released, it is best to look at your diet as a whole.  

Rather than comparing your diet to trends or even others’ diets, you should evaluate your diet objectively and with a positive, open mind.  Be selfish-choose the food you want to eat and not what you feel pressured to eat especially in social settings.

Based on a person’s health status, diets vary across the board, making your diet far different than another person’s.  You should enjoy your food while making healthy living decisions revolving around it.  

A Note on Dietary Supplements

My personal take on supplements is that everything your body needs is in real food; as mentioned earlier, nutrition is based on the individual.  

Based on a study Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among healthy adolescents, Vitamin D has been found to be deficient in dietsDue to this, and the benefits of Vitamin D as it relates to bone health and long-term health, I recommend Vitamin D supplement.  

Even though a healthy diet may include a variety of different foods, an individual may have greater needs for certain nutrients.  The best way to find out if you are obtaining the appropriate amount of nutrients is through blood tests.  

You can supplement or make changes to your diet based on those blood test results.  This is safer than picking and choosing supplements on a whim (especially if a fad diet recommends a supplement).  

At the end of the day, it is best to consume nutrients through whole food unless a registered dietitian or doctor recommends supplementing.

Take Home Message

Healthy eating involves a healthy mind.  Forming healthy living habits one meal at a time will yield positive long-term results. 

I cannot stress the importance of listening to your body.  Not only on topics related to nutrition but and just about everything in your life.  

Whether it’s work, sleep, or diet, it is critical to give your body the attention as it deserves, the nutrients it needs to fight diseases and live a long, healthy life.  

Focusing your attention on your body and how it feels will cultivate healthy habits as you continue to find what works best for fueling your body.

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