Healthy Food, Happy Bodies //
The new 2015-2020 US Dietary Guidelines provide Americans with needed direction for healthy food choices and a healthy eating pattern. For most Americans, eating more fruits and vegetables, and less salt and saturated fats can reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes. Almost half of adults in the United States have a chronic disease that is related to a poor diet. Knowing the right foods to eat is one step toward delaying or even preventing some chronic diseases.
The guidelines emphasize a lifetime of healthy food and beverage choices. Everything we eat and drink through the day affects our health. The goal is to make small changes over time to gradually change eating habits for a lifetime. Think of each positive choice as a personal win for better health.
Figuring out how to incorporate healthy food choices into your life can feel stressful and overwhelming for the beginner. The easiest first step is to examine your current eating habits and see how they match up to the recommendations. Before making any drastic changes, start with following the portion size recommendations. Using your regularly cooked meals, divide a 9 inch plate in half. Half of the plate is supposed to be non-starchy vegetables (think salad). Divide the other half of the plate in half again. One quarter of the plate is your protein and the other quarter is the carbohydrate portion. Start by aligning your regular meals with these portion guidelines.
A healthy diet comes in many colors. Choose a variety of colors when preparing a meal. Dark green or red vegetables are high in vitamins C, D, and K and contain iron and potassium. Vegetables such as potatoes, corn, green beans, and green peas provide quick energy because they are more a starch than a vegetable. Think of the tomato. Technically it is a fruit, but you will not see it in a fruit salad. These foods can be fresh, frozen or canned.
Whole foods are the foundation of a healthy diet. Whenever possible, especially with fruits, eat it in its most natural form. For example, an apple plucked from the tree offers more nutrients than applesauce. And an occasional small glass of orange juice is a nice treat, but the whole orange offers fiber and other nutrients missing from the juice.
Whole grains add fiber and energy from carbohydrates to your healthy eating. Whenever possible choose whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, and whole grain breads or cereals. Wheat breads and whole grain breads are not the same. Whole grain bread has all the essential parts and naturally occurring nutrients in the grain or seed. This is why whole grain bread will have a texture and often times you can see the grains and seeds in the bread. Wheat bread can vary in nutritional value. Read the label carefully. Unless it’s 100% whole wheat, the nutrient parts of the grain are removed, which reduces the fiber, B vitamins, and other essential nutrients.
Dairy products are an important source of calcium. Choose low fat dairy products. Fortified soy products can also be substituted, for those who are lactose intolerant. Cream, sour cream, and cream cheese are not included because of they are high in saturated fat and low calcium.
Protein foods are the final major group. The preferred proteins are seafood, lean meats, poultry, soy products, nuts, and seeds. We are fortunate in Seward because of the abundance of seafood. Salmon and trout are especially high in Vitamin D, and also provide excellent amounts of protein and iron.
Foods to avoid are high in sugar, saturated fat, refined starch, and salt. These foods are prepackaged boxed dinners, junk food, soft drinks, energy drinks, fried foods (French fries), and salty foods (like potato chips). Alcohol should be limited to those who are of a legal age. The daily limit should be no more than one drink (12 oz. beer, 5 oz. wine, 1.5 oz. distilled spirits) for women and two drinks for men. Fats and sugars should each be reduced to less than 10% of the daily calories. Sodium should be limited to less than 2,300 mg per day.
For more information about healthy food choices and portion control visit www.choosemyplate.gov. Personalized diet and activity trackers and a searchable database with nutritional information for over 8,000 foods are available at www.supertracker.usda.gov.
Seward Community Health Center will be hosting a Lunch & Learn educational session on Nutrition on Tuesday, March 8 from 12-1 pm at the SCHC Phoenix Room. Bring your lunch and curiosity for an engaging discussion on what you can do to make improvements to your daily food routine.