Better Health through Good Nutrition
A combination of physical activity and good nutrition is essential for good health and physical wellness. The benefits include becoming more physically fit, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing the incidences of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. In addition, physical activity and good nutrition can relieve stress and improve self-esteem.
By following the guidelines shown in the Food Pyramid, a wholesome diet can be achieved. A healthy diet includes a rich variety of foods including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and meat, beans, and eggs. Portion size is also an important consideration.
Grains – eat 6 oz. every day. Choose whole grain
Half of all grains consumed should be whole grains. A whole grain includes the entire kernel and yields more dietary fiber than a refined grain. An enriched grain has vitamins and minerals added to it, but it is still refined and, therefore, has less fiber. Check labels when buying bread – look for “whole wheat” or “whole grains”. Just because bread is brown in color doesn’t mean it is whole grain. Molasses and other additives can create the brown color associated with whole wheat.
Vegetables – eat 2 ½ cups every day -vary your veggies
Choose a wide variety of vegetables to get the most vitamins and minerals, but dark green and orange veggies offer the most potassium and vitamin A.
Fruits – eat 1 ½ cups every day - seasonal is the best buy, costs less and tastes better
Whole fruits are high in fiber. 100% fruit juice is a good choice, but it is lower in fiber. Other choices include dried, frozen and canned fruits, but be careful of choosing fruit in heavy syrup.
Meats and beans – eat 5 oz. every day – lean meats are best
Low fat meats include tenderloin, ham, 90% lean ground beef, round steak/roast, skinless chicken breasts, and turkey cutlets. Nuts and seeds offer protein along with healthy oils and vitamin E. Fish, especially salmon and trout are high in beneficial oils. Dried or canned beans and peas are good sources of protein. Canned beans are more convenient than dried, offer the same nutrition and fiber and they save time. Add to soups, chili, salads, and stews.
Milk and dairy – 3 cups every day - change to low-fat or skim milk
It’s easier to change gradually from whole milk to 2%, then to 1%, and finally to skim.
Cheese – choose low-fat or part-skim (mozzarella or provolone). When selecting meats from the deli, choose low-fat – lean turkey, lean roast beef, and ham.
Not a food group, but oils are important for good health – just switch from solid fats to oils.
Oils are liquid at room temperature; examples include corn oil, olive oil, and canola oil. Fish and nuts provide “good” oils.
Solid fats are solid at room temperature; butter, lard, and vegetable shortening. Solid fats raise levels of “bad” cholesterol which has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease.
Limit sugary drinks. Instead choose water, low-fat milk, 100% fruit juice or unsweetened tea or coffee. When adding milk or cream to coffee or tea, use low-fat or fat-free milk
Choose whole grain or baked snacks or popcorn (no butter, and little or no salt). Make smoothies using frozen fruits and fat-free or low fat yogurt.
The importance of meals
Eating healthy foods in a relaxed atmosphere, enjoying family-oriented conversation and limiting distractions (television and phone conversations) create an atmosphere that is beneficial for the entire family. It is a time for family togetherness and has been shown to have a positive effect on school success, behavioral issues, weight concerns, and improved nutrition.
Controlling portion size and focusing on better nutrition will make a determined effort toward overall wellness.