Nutrition Month: What Can You Do?

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National Nutrition Month® is a good time to look at your food and lifestyle choices. This year’s theme, “Start Today for a Healthy Tomorrow,” reminds us that even the “small stuff” that you do right now, regardless of your age or medical condition, can lead to a healthier life. Read the tips below, then write down one thing you can do today to work toward that goal. It can be simple (“call to find out about an exercise class”) or a little more challenging (“switch from regular soda to diet soda”).

1. Exercise is essential for weight control and a healthy heart. Try for at least 30 minutes per day on most days of the week. Even small spurts of activity throughout the day can keep your heart in shape. Whatever your goal, just get moving!
What can you do today to exercise more? Example: Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work

2. Fruits and vegetables are nature’s gift to our health. They are full of fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals that help prevent disease. Try for at least five servings per day, focusing on the deeply colored green, red, and orange ones.
What can you do today to make fruits and vegetables a regular part of your diet? Examples: Stock the refrigerator with cut up veggies and low-fat dip; keep your fruit bowl full.

3. Calcium is important for building bones. And it may also play a role in reducing high blood pressure, PMS, and some types of cancer. Good sources include low-fat milk, yogurt and cheeses, calcium-fortified soymilk and tofu, and calcium-fortified orange juice.
What can you do today to get more calcium? Example: Drink milk at lunch in place of soda.

4. Fiber fills you up, helps lower high blood cholesterol, aids digestion, and may play a role in cancer prevention. You won’t find many high-fiber foods in the snack aisle or freezer section. Instead, head for the fresh or frozen produce and the cereal aisle. Eat more fruits, vegetables, and beans, along with whole grain bread and cereal, and you’ll get more fiber.
What can you do today to get more fiber? Example: Eat a bowl of bran flakes or oatmeal for breakfast.

5. Water is vital to your body’s health. Experts say many of us walk around dehydrated every day, so drink up! Go for at least 8 cups per day.
What can you do to drink more water? Example: Keep a water bottle handy wherever you go.

6. Fast food is high in fat, calories, and sodium. Portion sizes are out of control. Put those two situations together and you get one reason why Americans are getting bigger. Limit fast food; when you do eat out, order the smallest size and take some fruit and veggies along to round out the meal.
What can you do today to eat more home-made meals? Example: Pack lunch for work or school.

7. Sugary drinks like soda, flavored teas, and fruit drinks are high in calories and low in nutrition. Water, fat-free and low-fat milk, 100% fruit juice, and sugar-free sodas are better choices.
What can you do today to drink fewer empty calories? Example: Read nutrition labels to see what you are getting from your beverages.

8. Seafood is good for your heart. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and lake trout may decrease your risk of heart disease when eaten at least twice per week.
What can you do today to include more fish in your diet? Example: Make salmon “burgers” for supper.

9. A high-sodium diet can increase blood pressure in some people. Most processed, convenience and fast foods contain lots of sodium.
What can you do today to cut the sodium in your diet? Example: Experiment with herbs and spices instead of reaching for the salt shaker.

10. A plant-based diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grain breads and cereals, is your ticket to good health.
What can you do today to eat a more plant-based diet? Example: Plan a meatless dinner at least one night per week.

10 Steps to Better Health:
1. Exercise 5-6 times a week for at least 30 minutes a day.
2. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Go for at least 5 servings a day.
3. Make sure you are getting enough calcium.
4. Eat a high-fiber diet.
5. Drink enough water.
6. Try to cook at home more often and limit the amount of fast food you eat.
7. Limit beverages with sugar.
8. Eat seafood twice per week.
9. Lower the sodium in your diet.
10. Eat a more plant-based diet.

By Hollis Bass, MEd, RD

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