National Nutrition Month

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Like a jet aircraft requires fuel to operate, so do our bodies. Healthy nutrition is about taking in the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals and water. While this seems like a simple lineup of requirements, eating healthy continues to be challenging for many of us.

A lifestyle of nutritious eating and regular physical activity can improve and maintain one's health in a multitude of ways. Maintaining a healthy weight involves lifelong, practical and sustainable approaches.

In 2011, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services developed ChooseMyPlate.gov, a website utilizing the principles of the My Pyramid program. ChooseMyPlate is intended to be a simple-to-understand site and focuses on four tenants of a healthy approach.

The first recommendation is to build a healthy plate. Think about your food choices at every meal. Nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean protein provide the nutrients you need without too many calories. Foods that have many calories with low nutritional quality are considered "calorie-dense".

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables, choosing a wide array of these colorful and healthy foods. A quarter of your plate should be comprised of a healthy protein, such as a baked, skinless chicken breast and the remaining quarter of your plate should be healthy whole grain.

Use skim or one-percent milk and, twice weekly, try to incorporate fish or seafood for your healthy protein servings. Beans are also good sources of healthy protein along with fiber.

The second recommendation of MyPlate is to cut back on solid fats, added sugar and salt. Added sugars and fat load foods up with lots of calories and most of us eat more than the recommended 2,300 mg of sodium, about a teaspoon, a day. Drinking water instead of sweetened drinks and choosing 100 percent fruit juice instead of fruit beverages can save many calories.

To cut back on fats eat fewer cakes, cookies, ice cream, pizza, cheese and meats such as sausage and regular cold cuts. Use monounsaturated oils for cooking such as canola or olive oil instead of using shortening and butter.

Log on to ChooseMyPlate to calculate your daily calorie needs and keep that number in mind each day as you choose your foods. Avoid oversized portions and use smaller plates, bowls and glasses. Eat slowly and stop eating when you are comfortably full; there is no need to feel guilty about wasting food if you take uneaten portions home from a restaurant or save leftovers at home for breakfast or lunch the next day or even a quick snack.

Cooking more often at home allows you to save a lot of money and you control what goes into your food and how it is prepared. Alcoholic beverages can contribute significant calories; limit drinks to no more than two daily for men and one for women.

The body uses calories just to carry out all the processes that keep us functioning, but exercise helps our bodies utilize excess energy we may take in from food. Choose activities that you enjoy and start small if you haven't exercised in a while. As you exercise more and consistently, the health benefits continue to add up.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 states that improving what you eat and being active will help to reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and obesity. For more information visit www.DietaryGuidelines.gov and www.ChooseMyPlate.gov.

Consult with your physician or healthcare provider for any recommendations specific to you, especially if you have not been active for a while or have diagnosed conditions.
For further assistance and support contact CHPS Eglin at 883-8024 or Eglin Health and Wellness Center at 883-8022 for information about classes, resources and screenings that can assist you in becoming your healthy best.