Healthy Eating: It’s Not a Diet, It’s a Lifestyle!

MyPlate

MyPlate is a new generation icon with the intent to prompt consumers to think about building a healthy plate at meal times and to seek more information to help them do that by going to ChooseMyPlate.gov. As Americans are experiencing epidemic rates of overweight and obesity, the online resources and tools can empower people to make healthier food choices for themselves, their families, and their children.

In Williams County, 41% of children grades K-6 are overweight or obese. Using MyPlate, the Williams County Health Department has developed a nutrition education program that is currently being implemented in Edon, Montpelier and North Central schools as an effort to address the problem of childhood obesity. The goal of the program is to improve children’s lifelong eating habits through nutrition education so that they may become healthy, strong and successful adults. Eating fruits and vegetables is linked to healthy body weight and is one dietary strategy to help reduce rates of obesity, as well as prevent other chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Students will learn about the benefits of healthy eating, as well as strategies on how to build a healthy plate at school and at home. By educating Williams County youth, our goal is to make the healthy choice, the easy choice!

For questions, contact Kirsten Frissora, Health Educator at 419-485-3141 ext. 124.

 

Good Nutrition: Why is it important?

Your everyday food choices affect your health — how you feel today, tomorrow, and in the future.

Good nutrition is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. Combined with physical activity, your diet can help you to reach and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic diseases (like heart disease and cancer), and promote your overall health.

The Impact of Nutrition on Your Health

Unhealthy eating habits have contributed to the obesity epidemic in the United States: about one-third of U.S. adults (33.8%) are obese and approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese. In Williams County, 68% of adults are overweight or obese, and 41% of children grades K-6 are also overweight or obese.

Even for people at a healthy weight, a poor diet is associated with major health risks that can cause illness and even death. These include heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer. By making smart food choices, you can help protect yourself from these health problems.

The risk factors for adult chronic diseases, like hypertension and type 2 diabetes, are increasingly seen in younger ages, often a result of unhealthy eating habits and increased weight gain. Dietary habits established in childhood often carry into adulthood, so teaching children how to eat healthy at a young age will help them stay healthy throughout their life.

The link between good nutrition and healthy weight, reduced chronic disease risk, and overall health is too important to ignore. By taking steps to eat healthy, you’ll be on your way to getting the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy, active, and strong. As with physical activity, making small changes in your diet can go a long way, and it’s easier than you think!

Eat Healthfully and Enjoy It!

A healthy eating plan that helps you manage your weight includes a variety of foods you may not have considered. If “healthy eating” makes you think about the foods you can’t have, try refocusing on all the new foods you can eat—

  • Fresh fruits ― don’t think just apples or bananas. All fresh fruits are great choices. Be sure to try some “exotic” fruits, too. How about a mango? Or a juicy pineapple or kiwi fruit! When your favorite fresh fruits aren’t in season, try a frozen, canned, or dried variety of a fresh fruit you enjoy. One caution about canned fruits is that they may contain added sugars or syrups. Be sure and choose canned varieties of fruit packed in water or in their own juice.
  • Fresh vegetables ― try something new. You may find that you love grilled vegetables or steamed vegetables with an herb you haven’t tried like rosemary. You can sauté (panfry) vegetables in a non-stick pan with a small amount of cooking spray. Or try frozen or canned vegetables for a quick side dish — just microwave and serve. When trying canned vegetables, look for vegetables without added salt, butter, or cream sauces. Commit to going to the produce department and trying a new vegetable each week.
  • Calcium-rich foods ― you may automatically think of a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk when someone says “eat more dairy products.” But what about low-fat and fat-free yogurts without added sugars? These come in a wide variety of flavors and can be a great dessert substitute for those with a sweet tooth.
  • A new twist on an old favorite ― if your favorite recipe calls for frying fish or breaded chicken, try healthier variations using baking or grilling. Maybe even try a recipe that uses dry beans in place of higher-fat meats. Ask around or search the internet and magazines for recipes with fewer calories ― you might be surprised to find you have a new favorite dish!

Do I have to give up my favorite comfort food?

No! Healthy eating is all about balance. You can enjoy your favorite foods even if they are high in calories, fat or added sugars. The key is eating them only once in a while, and balancing them out with healthier foods and more physical activity.

Some general tips for comfort foods:

  • Eat them less often. If you normally eat these foods every day, cut back to once a week or once a month. You’ll be cutting your calories because you’re not having the food as often.
  • Eat smaller amounts. If your favorite higher-calorie food is a chocolate bar, have a smaller size or only half a bar.
  • Try a lower-calorie version. Use lower-calorie ingredients or prepare food differently. For example, if your macaroni and cheese recipe uses whole milk, butter, and full-fat cheese, try remaking it with non-fat milk, less butter, light cream cheese, fresh spinach and tomatoes. Just remember to not increase your portion size. For more ideas on how to cut back on calories, see Eat More Weigh Less.
photo of 2 variations of macaroni and cheese, one with 540 calories and one with 315 calories

 

The point is, you can figure out how to include almost any food in your healthy eating plan in a way that still helps you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

Now Go Eat!

Now that you know the benefits, it’s time to start eating healthy: use these tips on ways to eating healthy and these resources to do it. For recipes and other helpful information, click here.

Resources: President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. Eat Healthy. 2015. Available at: http://www.fitness.gov/eat-healthy/why-is-it-important/
Centers for Disease Control and Preparedness, Healthy Weight – it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle! 2015. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/