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Eat Right for a Healthy Life

January 15, 2013

Jenny Starr, R.D., Clinical Nutrition Manager for Masonicare Health Center, knows how important it is to follow a healthy diet and make practical changes in our diets that will stick. “We strive to offer and encourage healthy choices for our residents and patients at the Health Center, but we realize that lifestyle and behavioral modification must often come first – especially in the population at large.  Unfortunately, with the abundance of fattening and unhealthy snacks and junk food so readily available, many of us can eat whatever we want – and whenever we want it!”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one-third of U.S. adults are obese, and approximately 17% of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years (12.5 million) are obese as well.  Most, if not all, of America’s leading causes of death have much to do with diet and lifestyle. Some of these top killers are heart disease, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes.  Although we’ve heard much of the following advice numerous times, Ms. Starr offers it again with the hope that at least some of us will take it to heart, improve our quality of life, and prevent or stall the onset of many of the serious and life-threatening diseases that are reaching epidemic proportions.

With the New Year just a month old, let’s use this information to help keep that Resolution!                                                        

Cut back on foods high in added sugar, salt, and solid fats.
Good advice to help you do this is to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables whenever possible.  Try eating a variety of vegetables, especially those that are dark-green, red and orange, such as broccoli, tomatoes and sweet potatoes, and be sure to include beans and peas. Fresh, frozen and canned vegetables all count, but choose “reduced sodium” or “no-salt-added” canned vegetables whenever possible.  Check nutrition labels for calorie count and compare sodium in foods such as soup, bread, and frozen meals, choosing those with the lowest numbers. Add spices or herbs to season food without adding salt. In addition to adding fresh fruit to your snacks and meals, buy fruits that are dried, frozen or canned in water or 100% juice.

Make half of your grains whole.
Choose 100% whole-grain breads, cereals, crackers, pasta and brown rice. Check the ingredients’ list on food packages to find whole-grain foods.

Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk.

Fat-free and low-fat milk have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but less fat and calories. If you are lactose intolerant, calcium-fortified almond milk and soy milk are also great heart-healthy alternatives. Just watch out for any added sugars.

Vary your protein choices.
Eat a variety of foods from the protein food group each week, such as seafood, nuts and beans, as well as lean meat, poultry and eggs. Canned and dried beans can be an economical and protein-rich source, but be sure to rinse off the canned beans. Draining canned beans alone reduces sodium by 36%, while draining and rinsing can reduce sodium by 41%!

Cut back on empty calories from added sugars
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Drink water instead of sugary drinks, and choose 100% fruit juice instead of fruit-flavored drinks.  Believe it or not, just ONE soft drink contains 9 teaspoons of sugar! Avoid sugary desserts as often as possible and replace them with fresh fruit, low or no sugar puddings or jello and other low or sugarless treats.

Watch the fats!
Make major sources of saturated fats such as desserts, pizza, cheese, sausage and hot dogs occasional choices, not everyday foods.  Try to select lean cuts of meat or poultry and fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese.  Switch from solid fats to vegetable or canola oil when preparing food.

Enjoy your food, but eat less.

Get your personal daily calorie limit at www.ChooseMyPlate.gov, and keep that number in mind when deciding what to eat.  Avoid oversized portions or “portion distortion” by using a smaller plate, bowl and glass.  Chew slowly, and put your fork down between bites. Cook and eat at home more often where you are in control of what’s in your food; when eating out, choose lower calorie menu options like those that include vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Keep track of what you eat.
Write down everything you eat in a day.  When you actually see how much food you’re consuming, it can be a wakeup call to cut down on the quantity and exchange it for quality.

Physical Activity is important.
It’s easier to be physically active if you choose activities that you really enjoy.  Start by doing what you can, at least 10 minutes at a time.  Every bit adds up, and health benefits increase as you spend more time being active.  It’s recommended that children and teens get 60 minutes or more a day, and adults should try for two hours and 30 minutes or more of activity a week that requires moderate effort, such as brisk walking.

What’s the best way to prepare that will help make my efforts successful?  
Changing your habits can be tricky, especially if you’re not ready or don’t even recognize your bad habits.   One way to start is to clean out your cabinets and refrigerator/freezer, removing items that should be “out of sight, out of mind.”  Have those healthier, ready-to-munch on snacks handy if you tend to be a “grazer.” Fresh fruit, yogurt, cut up veggies or nuts are a great place to start.

Another very important tip is to find a good support system.  Are your family and friends going to be influential in helping you reach your goal?  Remember – a positive attitude and the right people can make all the difference to your success.

Find more healthy eating tips at:

            www.eatright.org

            www.kidseatright.org

            www.ChooseMyPlate.gov