Feeding a family, nurturing a community

March 28, 2021

Dietitian Terri Simonton works to help people live healthier lives through weight loss services and diabetes education alongside endocrinologist Dr. Chih Chang.

Terri Simonton’s kids’ friends call her “Ms. Portions,” but it’s for a good reason – she is passionate about teaching her children and others about healthy eating.

Now the clinical dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist for Clark Memorial Health, Terri’s interest in nutrition sparked when she was in college. She scored high in nutrition on an aptitude test, and when her mother was diagnosed with diabetes, Terri began researching the disease.

“I would relay what I was learning and saw it was making a positive difference for my mom,” Terri says. “And I thought, ‘I’m sure I can make a difference for a lot more people who have diabetes.’”

This March, which is National Nutrition Month, marks Terri’s 22nd anniversary of working at Clark. As a dietitian, she ensures hospital patients’ nutritional needs are met. As an educator for diabetes and weight loss alongside endocrinologist Dr. Chih Chang, Terri helps motivate people to make changes to live healthier lives.

Through the pandemic, she’s been able to speak with hospitalized COVID patients on the phone to learn their preferences and craft a nutrition plan alongside their multidisciplinary team of nurses and speech pathologists. She’s also continued to offer her diabetes and weight loss services via Zoom through Dr. Chang’s office in Sellersburg.

Terri says obesity is one of the greatest challenges she works to combat in our community.

“I want to help people understand how important nutrition and having a healthy lifestyle is and be able to make positive changes to reduce the risk of different diseases,” she says. “It’s easier said than done to make changes, but it’s a mental approach. Knowing what a patient’s challenges are, I can help them address that and come up with motivating factors to keep them on track.”

Here are Terri’s tips for eating – and feeling – better today:

  • Portion control and moderation are key. Terri says she doesn’t deprive herself, her family, or her clients of treat foods – she just emphasizes keeping the portion sizes under control. “With my kids’ lunches, I allow them to have the ‘sometimes’ food, such as a Rice Krispie treat. I may just give them half of it. I don’t want to deprive them so they go to town on unhealthy foods. Their friends ask, ‘Why do you only have half of that?’ They say, ‘Because my mom’s a dietitian.’ But that’s OK because that’s instilling in their friends too that portion control does mean something.”
  • Have healthy options on hand. Terri says this is especially important during the pandemic: “A lot of times when you’re working from home, you just grab whatever because you’re hungry. Be aware of what you’re stocking in your cupboards so you have healthier choices available.” Her recommendations for some healthier snacks include Skinny Pop popcorn, fruits and vegetables already cleaned and in bags, celery and peanut butter, or raisins.
  • Find your ‘why.’ Terri starts her weight loss and diabetes classes with helping clients find a motivation that will help them stay on track. “A lot of them say, ‘I want to be around for my family or my grandkids,’ or ‘I want to be able to have more energy,’ or ‘If I lost the weight, I wouldn’t have to be on these medications anymore.’ I also try to get them to have something tangible, like an outfit out of the closet they want to get back into, so it’s something they can see.”
  • Plan ahead. Terri usually takes Sunday afternoons to make some meals ahead for the week, such as breakfast burritos she can keep in the freezer. “You have to meal plan on a day you don’t have a whole lot to do,” she advises.

Learn more about or register for Terri’s diabetes and weight loss services here or call 812.218.7966.