More than two-thirds of American adults and one in three
Aynsley Anderson, MA, RN
children and teens are overweight or obese. This puts them at risk for heart disease, stroke and many cancers, as well as several other chronic illnesses and conditions. Eating healthier is an important way to help maintain a healthy weight and prevent disease.
Patty Metzler, registered dietitian with Unidine Dining Services at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, says, “We know that eating well is important for taking care of our bodies. By eating a variety of healthy foods every day, our bodies are fueled with needed nutrients that can help us have a better and more enjoyable lifestyle.”
The American Heart Association notes that you do not have to give up all of the foods you love to eat healthy. Just focus on making smart, healthy choices as often as possible at home, work, restaurants and at the grocery store.
Try to include more of these in your daily food choices: fruits and vegetables; whole grains; beans and legumes; nuts and seeds; fish (preferably oily fish that provide omega-3 fatty acids); skinless poultry and plant-based protein alternatives such as tofu; fat-free and low-fat dairy products or non-dairy options such as almond milk; and healthier fats and non-tropical oils.
Try to limit foods and beverages that contain sodium and salt; saturated fat; sweets and added sugars, especially sugar-sweetened beverages; and red and processed meats. Avoid trans fat and partially hydrogenated oils.
Here are some more tips from the American Heart Association’s website, heart.org:
- Choose wisely. Learn to read food labels, as ingredients and nutrient content can vary, even among healthier foods.
- Look for the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark in the grocery store to help you easily identify foods that can be part of a healthy diet.
- Compare nutrition information on package labels. Try to select those food items that have the lowest amounts of sodium, added sugars, saturated and trans fat, and no partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
- Watch your calorie intake. To maintain weight, only consume as many calories as you burn each day. To lose weight, you must either consume fewer calories or burn more. Supertracker.usda.gov can help you determine approximately how many calories per day are appropriate for you based on your gender, age and activity level, and whether your goal is to maintain, lose or gain weight.
- Eat reasonable portions. This can often be less than you are served, especially in restaurants. Many Americans eat more calories each day than they need for health. At supertracker.usda.gov, you can see daily food plans based on calories and also the recommended serving sizes from each food group to meet your daily calorie goal.
- Prepare and eat as many healthy meals at home as you can. Eating at home often gives you more control over what you put in a dish and how much you eat of it.
- Eat a wide variety of foods to get all of the nutrients your body needs. Visit choosemyplate.gov for more about a healthy, balanced eating plan.
For more information on healthy eating, weight management and exercise, visit lmh.org.
— Aynsley Anderson, MA, RN, is Community Education Coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, which is a major sponsor of WellCommons. She is a Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach. She can be reached at email@example.com.