Posts Tagged ‘healthy eating’

Throughout the 20th Century, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published varied guidelines to help Americans eat healthier. Prior to the discovery of individual vitamins, Wilbur Atwater in the 1890s compiled the first nutrition bulletin. He advocated variety, portion control, calorie maintenance, and affordable diets that emphasized nutrient-rich diets with limited fat, sugar, and starch. The 1940s ushered in the “Basic 7” food groups which were replaced in 1956 with the “Basic Four.” The USDA introduced the “Food Guide Pyramid”  in 1992.

Amplified dietary guidelines appeared in 1980 and is updated  every five years for the general public. The USDA and Health and Human Services now conjointly establish dietary guidelines. Each new edition, compiled by a panel of experts in the fields of medicine and nutrition, builds on the previous guidelines and incorporates the latest information from scientific research.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released on January 7, 2016. Many recommendations remained the same as previous publications while others were diminished or expanded. New information also surfaced. These are the first guidelines to acknowledge the widespread use of caffeine, a non-nutrient, and suggest upper limits for its use. Information incorporated into the new guidelines seemed more contentious than in previous years. Questions surfaced regarding political influence while opposing factions sometimes appeared to have self-serving motives.

These documents are public domain. The complete report can be accessed at http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. Identified below are the five categories recommended in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

  1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. All food and beverage choices matter. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
  2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.
  3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.
  4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.
  1. Support healthy eating patterns for all. Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.

What purpose do these guidelines serve? Here are a few considerations.

  • With nearly 70 percent of our nation overweight or obese, these guidelines can help people achieve a more reasonable weight for better health.
  • Several illnesses and diseases result from environmental causes. Many of those could be abated or eliminated with appropriate diets.
  • Foods at the check-out easily persuade us to buy foods we don’t need or really want because of visual temptations. Aldi grocery stores declared support of a healthier food supply by replacing candies and less nutritious foods at the check-lanes with nuts, dried fruits and granola bars.

The above is not intended as a complete list. Dietary guidelines serve many purposes in giving directions for the public to remain healthy and extend longevity. Whatever flaws may exist in each new addition, these suggestions can help us maintain optimum health and well-being. The wise consumer will not ignore them.

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Do we take food for granted? While many in the world go to bed hungry, most of us  have abundant food and often tend to eat too much. October reminds us of the abundant fall harvests. Several groups choose October to celebrate our food sources.

Americans celebrate Food Day each year on October 24. The purpose is multifaceted. First, it’s a reminder to make positive changes in our diets. It’s also a good time to call attention to the value of food in diets of all Americans and help solve food availability problems throughout our nation. The 2015 theme, “Toward a Greener Diet,” promotes healthy, affordable food produced under friendly environmental conditions and recognizes  those who grow, harvest, and serve it. In 2014, Food Day emphasized food justice and 2013 focused on food education.

Earlier this month on October 16 we commemorated United World Food Day which recognized the founding of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1945. This significant date raised nutrition awareness worldwide. The 2015 theme, “Social protection and Agriculture,” sought to “improve agricultural productivity at all levels, enhance the lives of rural populations and contribute to the growth of the world economy.” Additionally, it proposed to help other countries change agricultural policies, aid areas enduring famine, and help nations use technology more effectively.

Previous themes of United World Food Day have included “Feeding the world, caring for the earth (2014),”  “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition (2013), ” and “Agricultural cooperatives – key to feeding the world (2012).”

Let’s remain mindful of how to share and educate those with few options and opportunities for healthful foods. While typical American diets continue to contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other health problems, it’s also a good time to check our own diets. On this Food Day October 24, 2015, let’s resolve to eat healthier, set a positive example for our families, and help those unable to help themselves.



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Why do we eat? The answer may not be as simple as you think. We eat for many reasons. It seems logical that we eat because we are hungry, but that isn’t the only purpose.

How many items do we eat when we aren’t hungry? It may be because others are eating. Some eat because food is there in front of them. Others want to replace boredom. A few can’t bear the thoughts of wasting food. Or to some it is a social function.

Yet many indulge in emotional eating. We eat to cope with emotions that have nothing to do with hunger. Emotional eating may make us temporarily feel better. Foods higher in fat, sugar, and salt especially appeal to us when under stress. We easily get into the habit of believing if we eat a bowl of ice cream, candy bar, or whatever our comfort food, we will feel better. The results are extra calories we don’t need.

If you fall into the habit of emotional eating, what can you do? Medline Plus from the National Institute of Health recommends several helpful guides.

  • Observe yourself. When you feel an urge to eat between meals, ask yourself if you are hungry and why you have a desire to eat. Become conscious of your eating behavior when you become angry, sad, or overcome with other emotions. Observe the time of day or situations that cause you to want to emotionally eat.
  • Develop coping skills. If you decide you are an emotional eater, how can you change? Consider finding information about managing stress. Check for online articles, books, or other means. Share your feelings with a close friend who understands your situation. Take a walk or exercise to get your mind off food and rationally evaluate the cause of stress in your life. Occupy your mind with a hobby, book, or an interesting activity.
  • Value yourself. Identify and make a list of your strengthens and weaknesses. We all have them. Focus on your value as a person. What interests you most and how often do you take part in that interest? Spend more time doing what you enjoy. What are your greatest achievements (family, work, volunteerism, etc)?
  • Eat slowly. Be mindful of what you eat. Some of us eat without thinking. Do we actually know what we have eaten throughout the day? Take time to taste and savor your food before swallowing. Limit portion size of higher calorie foods. Select a specific place for eating away from television or other distractions.
  • Plan ahead. We are more likely to eat healthier when we plan meals in advance. When we wait until too close to mealtime, we are prone to settle for whatever is available. If we become too hungry, we eat whatever we find. Keep fruits, vegetables, and lower calorie foods available to offset hunger pangs. Select lower calorie ingredients for cooking such as low-fat or skim milk instead of whole.

Most of us succumb to emotional eating at times. However, following these guidelines will help us break the dependency of relying on feelings instead of sound judgment. Make your selections healthy choices, and enjoy what you eat.


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We observed both Heart Month and Cancer Prevention Month in February. If you missed these posts, read them in the previous blogs for February, 2015.

During the month of March we celebrate National Nutrition Month sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). Members of this organization of more than 75,000 professionals promote sound nutrition and healthy eating practices. The theme for 2015 is “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle” (see side bar). The goal of members of AND is to help others maintain a healthy weight, manage and/or prevent diseases through healthy food choices, and live healthy lifestyles.

March 11, 2015 is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day. Registered dietitian nutritionists are health professionals who help the public make wise food choices to improve and/or maintain health. A dietitian nutritionist in the mid-west summarized what these dedicated professionals want in their practices. She stated that her reason for writing about nutrition and healthy eating is to make the world a better place. Through various areas of service and practice plus a variety of media sources, dietitian nutritionists help society choose foods and meal plans for better health. Support those you know by thanking them for their efforts to make your world a better place.

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The U. S. News & World Report published the 2014 best diets in eight categories. The DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) again rated as the best over-all diet and the best diet for healthy eating. What about this diet has caused it to rank number one for the past five years?

The government initially funded research to develop an eating plan to lower blood pressure that resulted in the DASH Diet. The diet scores high because of nutrients provided, safety, and its role in the prevention or control of diabetes and heart disease. While it is not designed for weight loss, those who follow this diet should maintain a healthy weight, and those with excessive body fat should lose extra pounds.

The Dash Diet increases “good” HDL cholesterol and lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol as well as triglycerides. The diet meets dietary standards for fat, protein, and carbohydrate. It provides ample fiber, potassium, calcium, and vitamin B-12, nutrients often deficient in diets. Although a little low in vitamin D, eating fortified cereal or foods such as sockeye salmon can help meet nutrient requirements.

The DASH Diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils. It limits sodium, sweets, sugary beverages, and red meats and is low in saturated and trans fats. Below are guidelines to help follow the DASH Diet.

  • Vegetables: Eat four to five servings a day based on a serving size of one cup raw leafy green vegetables or 1/2 cup cut-up raw or cooked vegetables. Vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, greens and others are high in fiber, vitamins, and such minerals as potassium and magnesium. Use vegetables served over brown rice or whole-wheat noodles as a main dish. Fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables are all nutritious choices.
  • Fruits: Eat four to five servings a day based on a serving size of one medium fruit or 1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit or 4-ounces  of juice. Fruits are high in fiber, potassium, and magnesium, and all except a few are low in fat. Serve at mealtime for dessert or as a snack.
  • Dairy: Consume two to three servings a day based on serving sizes of one cup skim or one-percent milk, one cup yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounce cheese. These are major sources of calcium, vitamin D, and protein.
  • Grains: Eat six to eight servings a day based on serving sizes of one slice whole-wheat bread, one ounce dry cereal, or 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice, or pasta. For more fiber and nutrients, choose whole grains. Look for products labeled “100 percent whole grain” or “100 percent whole wheat.”
  • Lean meat, poultry, and fish: Eat six or fewer servings a day based on serving sizes of one ounce cooked skinless poultry, seafood, lean meat, or one egg. These are rich sources of protein, B-vitamins, iron, and zinc. Reduce meat portions by one-third or one-half since even lean varieties contain fat and cholesterol. Trim away skin and fat from poultry and meat. Eat heart-healthy fish such as salmon, herring, and tuna.
  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes: Choose four to five servings a week based on serving sizes of 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) nuts, 2 tablespoons seeds, or 1/2 cup cooked beans or peas. Almonds, sunflower seeds, kidney beans, peas, lentils and other foods in this family are good sources of magnesium, potassium, and protein as well as fiber and phytochemicals. Nuts contain healthy types of fat—monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids—and can be added to stir-fry, salad, or cereal. Also serve soybean-based products, such as tofu and tempeh, as alternatives to meat.
  • Fats and oils: Use two to three servings a day based on serving sizes of one teaspoon soft margarine, one tablespoon mayonnaise, or two tablespoons salad dressing. While fat is essential in the diet, many people consume too much which can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. Choose healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Avoid trans fats that are often found in processed foods such as crackers and baked goods. Read food labels and choose foods lowest in saturated fat and free of trans fat.
  • Sweets: Limit to five or fewer a week. Serving sizes include one tablespoon sugar, jelly or jam, or 1/2 cup sorbet, Cut back on added sugar. Instead, use artificial sweeteners to curb the hunger for sweets.

Following the DASH Diet during 2015 can result in a healthier you. As a reminder, print and clip these guidelines and place on your refrigerator or in a place where you will see them daily. You can eat healthier and reap many rewards.

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I stood before the yogurt case contemplating my grocery needs. A young woman rushed up. “I need to lose ten pound next week,” she said to no one in particular.

“Good luck,” I replied as she hurriedly looked into the refrigerated case and then scurried away.

I could only speculate. Did she have a class reunion the following week-end and suddenly realize she had gained ten pounds since that last momentous gathering? She wasn’t morbidly obese. Nor did she look overweight. But here was a sudden crisis for her. How did she think she would get that weight off so quickly?

Many like her want to do just that. I would like to lose a few pounds myself. I recognize multiple reasons, however, why ten pounds in one week is impossible unless I want to drop dead. From an energy standpoint, most know that 3,500 calories equals one pound. Theoretically, if you eat 3,500 more calories than your body uses, you gain a pound. Likewise, if you burn 3,500 more calories than needed, you lose that same amount. Our bodies need about 1,000 calories just to meet body-function needs even when still or sleeping.

How is it some people actually do lose a great amount in a brief time?That’s difficult to  answer. The very obese are more likely to lose large amounts at first than those closer to their recommended weight. Often the loss is in fluids. Abrupt diet changes may alter metabolism and thereby increase weight loss. Nutrition experts agree that many weight-loss diets are unhealthy, but initially people may lose weight regardless of the type of diet. Once your body adjusts to that diet, weight may plateau, and it becomes difficult to keep losing weight.

Is losing ten pounds a week possible for you? Probably not. To reach and keep a healthy weight, it’s better to decrease calories while increasing exercise or activity and to continue with that changed lifestyle. Before you become discouraged, consider other factors. Losing weight is complicated, and new research seems to pop up every day. Here are a few items that tend to impact weight loss in addition to food and exercise.

  • Do you get enough sleep?
  • Do you drink adequate water?
  • Do you limit artificially sweetened beverages to less than one per day?
  • Do you have stress in your life?
  • Do you take any medications that may cause weight increase? (Ask your physician or pharmacist to see if similar drugs that don’t cause weight gain would be appropriate.)
  • Are you middle aged yet continue with the same eating pattern and exercise routine? (Metabolism slows with age and you need fewer calories and more exercise to keep the same weight.)
  • Have you had a recent health examination to rule out any conditions that may cause retention of fluids or weight gain?

This list is not conclusive. Many things affect weight, but attempting to lose ten pounds in a week isn’t a good idea. Good luck as you strive to reach and keep a healthy weight.



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If you work better with a diet plan, check the diets for 2014 ranked by the U. S. News & World Report (January... Clip art image of a group of healthy foods for a balance diet concept 7, 2014) as the most nutritious, safe, and easy to follow.

For the past four years, U. S. News has issued Best Diets in several categories as determined by experts in the fields of dietetics, nutrition, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. From thirty-two plans, the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) once again ranked as the best diet overall. The federal government initially funded research for this diet and doesn’t consider it a diet but an “eating plan.” It consists of foods lower in sodium to help reduce blood pressure.

The TLC Diet (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes), a solid diet plan developed by the National Institute of Health, ranked second. Three diets tied for third; Mayo Clinic Diet, Mediterranean Diet, and Weight Watchers.

If you are seeking to lose weight, Weight Watchers topped the list followed by Jenny Craig, Biggest Loser, and Raw Food Diet. You can see the ranking of all thirty-two weight-loss diets at this link. Six other categories ranked the best diets for diabetes, heart, healthy eating, easiest to follow, best commercial diet plans, and best plant-based diets.

What is the best diet for you? These rankings show that no one diet plan is ideal for everyone. If you want a plan for healthy eating, the DASH and TLC diets again ranked first and second followed by the Mediterranean Diet. See the entire ranking for healthy diets here.

Continue your quest to eat healthier in 2014, and use these diets as a guide toward becoming a healthier and maybe even a happier you.

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By now, most have set resolutions for 2014, and perhaps many have broken them already. We declared what we wanted to accomplish this year. Some were far-reaching goals that needed time and commitment. Others required a change in mind-set.

Last year I delineated five positive nutrition principles to focus on in 2013, (Forget Diet Resolutions—Focus on Positives). Briefly these included:

  • Everyone eats food—we can’t live without it.
  • Sugar doesn’t make us fat—just the excess, especially when accompanied with high fat.
  • Diet isn’t a bad word—everything we eat is a part of our diet.
  • Add instead of subtract—eat more fruits/veggies, nix the salt.
  • Watch portion size—bigger isn’t better.

How did you make out? Maybe it’s time to review, remember, and remedy. If you made diet resolutions again and have already faltered, take heart. Any time is a good time to improve healthy eating. Review food choices you made last year. Remember what situation or specific foods may have caused you to go astray. Consider some of the following to remedy or improve eating habits.

  • Post a list on the refrigerator of healthy foods you need daily. A constant reminder makes it easier to remember to make wise choices.
  • Write down foods to buy before shopping using your refrigerator list as a guide. If you purchase healthy foods instead of unhealthy ones, that’s what you will eat because they’re available.
  • Eliminate the word diet from your vocabulary. Concentrate on each food instead of diet.
  • Put away the salt shaker. Be more diligent in reading food labels. Remember processed foods contain a lot more sodium/salt than most home-prepared dishes. When possible, purchase reduced-salt products. If you use convenience foods when cooking, such as condensed soup, omit additional salt in the recipe.
  • Invest in a good set of measuring utensils and measure recommended portion sizes until you visually recognize that amount on your plate or in your bowl.

It’s still about simple changes. Just as bad habits form by doing the same thing over and over, repeating small changes becomes a habit for healthier eating. Hopefully, you made strides toward improved eating in 2013. If so, good job. Keep going. If not, it’s never too late. Focus on adjustments you want to make before 2015. Get going and make it a happy healthy year.


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Want to Live Longer?—Eat Your Veggies

Few of us, if any, look forward to dying young. A Swedish study, conducted over a thirteen year period, found that the number of servings of fruits and vegetables affected longevity. Those who ate no fruits or veggies were more likely to die three years earlier than their counterparts who ate five or more fruits and vegetables daily. Eating more than that amount did not seem to influence length of life. Three servings increased the life span by thirty-two months. On average, those who ate at least one serving per day lived nineteen months longer than those who never ate any.

Nutritionists tout fruits and vegetables for their high content of antioxidants—substances that block chemicals that can damage cells. While antioxidant supplements don’t seem to directly influence prevention of heart disease or cancer—both often associated with a lower life span—eating fruits and vegetables may. The nutrients folate, magnesium, potassium, and dietary fiber plus vitamins A,C, and K in fruits and vegetables also play a significant role in cellular health and longer life.

High intakes of white fruits and vegetables may protect against stroke. White fruits include bananas, pears, and apples (regardless of outside skin color). Vegetables include cauliflower and cucumbers but not potatoes, which are a starch. Green, orange/yellow, and red/purple fruits and vegetables do not seem to have the same protective advantage.

However, other fruits and vegetables have their place. The amount of fruits and vegetables eaten correlates with certain disease entities—obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases—and mortality. In an eighteen year study of 71,346 female nurses, three servings per day of whole fruit lowered the risk for type 2 diabetes. Women who ate more green leafy vegetables and fruit (but not fruit juice) were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, while refined grains and white potatoes increased the risk.

The American Heart Association and other health organizations and professionals recommend at least four to five and preferably five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables daily. The nutrients they contain make a big difference when it comes to optimum health. Mom was right. Eat your veggies.

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