Food and Fitness Fundamentals
When the U.S. Department of Agriculture and The Department of Health and Human Services release new Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years, the recommendations have historically been for a healthy population. But with 68 percent of Americans being overweight or obese, including 20 percent of children ages 6-11 who are obese, the most recent guidelines now focus on this population who are at increased risk of chronic diseases.
Implementing healthy eating strategies along with being physically active on a regular basis can help you consume fewer calories, maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of developing chronic disease, and promote overall health. Remember the best eating habits you can create for yourself are those that allow you to feel comfortable and confident which you will practice for a lifetime. Start out slowly; set small attainable goals, then move forward when you feel recent changes have become new habits.
To help you get started, here are four recommendations:
1. Find your balance between calorie consumption and physical activity.
For the first time, the Dietary Guidelines are addressing the majority of Americans who are overweight or obese which exposes them to an increased risk of developing deadly diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. To help meet these guidelines, limit portion sizes, reduce overall fat intake, and exercise regularly.
2. Go back to the basics. Select foods as nature has provided naturally. Eat more fruit and vegetables, filling half of your plate with them. Research has shown only 1 in 4 Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables. Consume nutrient rich foods and beverages, and avoid processed and altered foods in order to help keep calories, sodium, sugar and fat intake down and vitamins, minerals and fiber up.
3. Make at least half your grains whole grains. Read food labels on breads, cereals, pasta and rice to ensure you are selecting 100 percent whole grains instead of refined. Whole grains naturally offer more fiber, protein, iron and B vitamins.
4. Avoid your SoFas! (Solid fats and added sugars). Research has shown that fat from animal and hydrogenated sources directly correlate with heart disease. Choose fats that are liquid at room temperature, such as olive oil and canola oil. They have cholesterol lowing properties. Consume low fat or fat free dairy products, and limit portions of lean meat and poultry. Include seafood, nuts, seeds, soy and legumes as alternate sources of protein. Added sugar simply creates unneeded calories and displaces vitamins and minerals from what could be nutrient dense foods.
Here are some other online resources:
USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Policy. This federal nutrition policy is updated every five years, and provides the latest scientific-based nutrition advice for everyone age 2 and older, educating the public on how healthy eating habits and lifestyle can reduce the risk of major chronic diseases. Read more
The guidelines provide recommendations to health professionals, aid in education programs, and govern mandated nutrition assistance programs, such as school meals for children and Meals on Wheels for the elderly.
The Food Guide Pyramid has also been replaced with MyPlate, a visually improved and more easily understood method for demonstrating how to eat healthfully
Ten simple steps to make good habits more delicious from the American Dietetic Association