Come Hungry, Leave Healthy

Norah McNally, Registered Dietitian, HealthAlliance Hospital

“Consulting with a HealthAlliance Registered Dietitian is the most effective way to reach your dietary goals. We offer the following nutritional services:”

  • Diabetes
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Weight Management
  • Heart Health
  • Kidney Disease
  • Cancer
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders
  • Food Allergies & Intolerances
  • Nutrition for Children & Adolescents
  • Eating Disorders
  • Wellness & Disease

To talk with a HealthAlliance Registered Dietitian call:
(978) 466-2971

To schedule an appointment with a HealthAlliance Registered Dietitian:
Ask your primary care physician to send us a referral.  Once the referral form is received from your physician, a representative from HealthAlliance Central Scheduling will confirm your insurance coverage and call you to schedule a one-hour initial appointment.

Goodie Monster

HealthAlliance Hospital posted on its Facebook page a picture of the Goodie Monster, a healthy vending machine with his own Facebook page. Norah, what do you think about the Goodie Monster, and should we get one for the hospital?

“I believe in society today we have so much pressure to get more done and in a shorter amount of time it leaves people pressed for time and ultimately causes them to choose higher carbohydrate, higher fat options from traditional vending machines or in the form of fast food.

I think having healthy options while on the go from sources like the Goodie Monster vending machine is great, however patrons need to be aware that while the low nutrional valued snacks are being replaced, some of the healthier options such as almonds, protein bars, etc. can be high in calories even in small quantities. If they are over consuming calories with these healthier products they can still in fact gain weight. People just need to be aware of this. I do believe that these new healthy vending machines are great for the pure fact they contain better foods than the typical fast foods and drinks loaded with fat and calories that are available around every corner. If we had the Goodie Monster here one good thing would be that it provided more healthy options.” 

My Fitness Pal

Here is the My Fitness Pal smartphone application that Norah uses to monitor calories and progress, but she notes, “it should be used in conjunction with our dietary services for the most effective results.”


“When I was diagnosed as being a diabetic, my doctor recommended that I consult with a nutritionist to learn the effects of diet on my disease. I was teamed up with Dietitian Norah McNally of HealthAlliance Hospital in Leominster. Norah helped me understand the connection between the foods I ate and how those foods affected blood sugar and diabetes. She set up a dietary budget that I followed daily and I had to record my daily food and drink intake for review. Norah taught me both the benefits and the hazards of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and sugar intake in my diet as related to diabetes.

Norah was a coach. I believe this was the most important part of this team relationship. Meeting with her periodically, reviewing my progress and developing the next steps needed have made my battle to beat the disease of diabetes and to stay insulin free possible. Her coaching and analysis of my efforts have resulted in the loss of over forty pounds and has increased my aerobic exercise levels. My important health markers (A1C, cholesterol, blood pressure) have moved into safe ranges. With her professional advice and her enthusiastic support, Norah has helped me to make the nutritional lifestyle changes needed to continue battling diabetes and to keeping the disease in check. As I continue to develop my new lifestyle I look forward to greater weight loss and better health markers in the future thanks to Norah’s professional advice.”

-Don Pierce

General Tips to Eating Healthy: 

Vegetables are a major source of fiber. They’re also packed with vitamins needed for health and growth. Sneak vegetables into every meal. Eat plenty of colors to get a variety of nutrients. Dark green vegetables, such as spinach, collard greens, kale, and broccoli; bright red and orange vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, red bell peppers, and tomatoes; and starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and squash are great choices. Canned vegetables often have lots of salt.

Like vegetables, fruit contains fiber and plenty of vitamins. But the great thing about fruit is its flavor. If you have a sweet tooth or just want a little treat, fruit is the healthiest way to indulge. And you’re probably not eating as much of it as you should. An apple a day doesn’t cut it anymore. Most fruit is seasonal so your options change with the time of year. Take advantage of the seasons to keep healthy eating fresh. Most of your fruit should come from whole fruit. Next time you’re at the grocery store, pick out two fruits you’ve never tried.

The dairy group includes foods that are made from milk and are also high in calcium, a nutrient that builds strong bones. Calcium is found in other food like leafy greens such as mustard or collard greens, and from calcium-fortified foods such as orange juice and soy products. Drink nonfat milk.

Grains, also known as starches, make up foods such as bread, pasta, rice, cereal, and tortillas. Grains provide iron, B vitamins, and other nutrients the body needs to function. And they give your body fiber, which helps your digestion. Fiber also helps you manage your weight, because it’s low in calories but fills you up. Eat foods that have whole grains as the first ingredient such as whole wheat or whole rolled oats. Ingredients are listed from most to least, so if a whole grain is first, you know the food has a lot of it. Eat foods that are made with whole grains, such as oatmeal, barley soup, wild rice pilaf, and buckwheat (soba) noodles.

Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature. This food group includes oils you cook with, plus foods that are mostly oil, such as mayonnaise and salad dressing. Oils give the body vitamin E and essential fatty acids, which keep cells and tissues healthy and help the body heal. But oils and other fats are high in calories. Eating too much fat leads to weight gain and increased risk of heart disease.

Fat Facts

Some fats are liquid. Others are solid. And all of them can be bad for you if you eat too much. Food labels tell you which fats a food contains. Some are healthier than others:

  • Unsaturated fats are found in some oils (such as olive, peanut, and canola), nuts, seeds, and fish. These are the healthiest fats. They can be good for your heart in moderate amounts.
  • Saturated fats are found in animal foods such as butter, lard, beef, and high-fat dairy. These are less healthy, and should be limited.
  • Trans fats are found in some fast food, such as French fries, snack foods (like chips and cookies), and some margarines and shortenings. These are the worst fats for you. Avoid them when you can.

Be Smart About Fats

  • Out with the Bad: Check food labels for trans fats. And stay away from foods that have them. Trans fats are mostly found in processed foods. So, choose unprocessed foods more often.
  • In with the Good: Choose unsaturated fat over saturated when you can. Use olive or canola oil instead of lard or butter.


This group includes foods that are high in protein. Protein helps the body build new cells and keeps tissues healthy. Most Americans get enough protein without even trying. It can be harder for vegetarians, but plenty of non-meat foods are rich in protein, too. It’s best to get protein from a variety of sources.

Nutrient-Rich Choices
There’s a lot more to this food group than just meat and beans. It also includes nuts, seeds, and eggs. There are all sorts of nutrient-rich choices:

  • Chicken and turkey with the skin removed
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Lean beef, pork, or lamb (without visible fat)
  • Soy products, such as tofu, soybeans (edamame), tempeh, or soymilk
  • Black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), and lentils (Note: beans and peas count as both a protein and a vegetable)
  • Peanuts, almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds, as well as foods made from these (such as peanut butter or tahini)
  • Eggs and foods made with eggs (such as quiche or frittata) 

Like the HealthAlliance Hospital Facebook page to receive Facebook updates about staying healthy.

Healthy Foods On-the-Go for Your Child

What can you do if you’re not near a grocery store or farmer’s market? You can find healthy choices in a corner market or convenience store. Even fast-food restaurants offer some good choices for the whole family. 


At a Corner Market or Convenience Store

Do you shop at corner markets or convenience stores? You can still find healthy foods for your family. Look for:

  • Canned vegetables and fruits (packed in water, not heavy syrup). If you have to buy fruit packed in syrup, rinse the fruit with water and throw away the syrup.
  • Whole-grain products like brown rice, corn tortillas, and whole-wheat breads. Look for the words “whole grain” on the package, not just “wheat.”
  • Good sources of protein like canned beans, tuna canned in water, eggs, low-fat or non-fat milk, and low-fat or non-fat cheese and yogurt.
  • Avoid junk foods!  Don’t be drawn in by chips, candy, soda, and sugar-filled cereals.

At a Fast-Food Restaurant

Eating healthy at fast-food restaurants means choosing the right foods.

  • Instead of fried foods, try grilled meats like chicken and fish. Look for baked potatoes topped with vegetables or salads. Order low-fat or non-fat milk instead of soda. Get fruit or yogurt instead of milkshakes or cookies.
  • If your child isn’t ready for you to stop ordering french fries, get one serving for everyone to share. This gives everyone a taste without making french fries the center of the meal.
  • Lead by example. Make healthy choices for yourself. Kids watch how and what you eat. They’ll be more likely to eat healthy foods that you eat, too.


Wherever your family goes, healthy eating can still be easy for you and fun for your kids. Pack sliced vegetables, fruits, and non-fat or low-fat dips in plastic bags or containers. Make fun and easy snacks like celery with peanut butter and raisins. Bring plenty of bottled water. Anywhere you go, you’ll be ready when you and your child feel hungry.

To make an appointment to see a HealthAlliance Hospital nutritionist call the physician referral line at (978) 665-5900. Like our Facebook page to receive Facebook updates about health and nutrition.

To Learn More

To get more info on healthy grain products: