March is National Nutrition Month
By Marilyn Leggett, Civilian Health Promotion Services
/ Published February 26, 2014
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
As a jet aircraft requires the right fuel to operate efficiently, so do our bodies. We need the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals and water. While this seems simple, healthy eating 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.
In 2011, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services developed ChooseMyPlate.gov, a website which utilizes the principles of the My Pyramid program. ChooseMyPlate focuses on basic tenants of a healthy eating approach.
One recommendation is to build a healthy plate. Nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean protein provide the necessary nutrients, without too many calories. Foods that have many calories with low nutritional quality are considered "calorie-dense."
Half of your plate should consist of colorful fruits and vegetables. A quarter of your plate should be a healthy protein, such as a baked, skinless chicken breast and the remaining quarter should be a healthy whole grain.
Use skim or one-percent milk twice weekly. Incorporate fish or seafood for your healthy protein servings. Beans, which are loaded with fiber, are also healthy protein sources.
Another My Plate recommendation is to cut back on solid fats, added sugar and salt. Most of us eat more than the recommended 2,300 milligrams of sodium, about a teaspoon, a day. Drinking water instead of sweetened drinks and choosing 100 percent fruit juice instead of fruit beverages can also cut calories.
Cut back on fats by eating 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. Cooking at home allows you to save money and control how your food is prepared.
Alcoholic beverages can contribute significant calories. Limit alcoholic drinks to no more than two daily for men and one for women.
Exercise helps our bodies burn excess calories we take in from food. Choose activities you enjoy and start small. As you exercise more and consistently, the health benefits continue to add up.
Consult with your physician or health care provider for any recommendations specific to you, especially if you have not been active for a while or have diagnosed conditions.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 state 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.