March is National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is Put Your Best Fork Forward.
So how exactly can you go about leading with your best fork?
Small shifts in your food choices add up over time. So don’t stress if you don’t have a “perfect” diet – just work to make small changes that move you in the right direction!
Here are the key messages for this year’s month-long celebration of nutrition:
- Create an eating style that includes a variety of your favorite, healthful foods.
- Practice cooking more at home and experiment with healthier ingredients.
- How much we eat is as important as what we eat. Eat and drink the right amount for you, as MyPlate encourages us to do.
- Find activities that you enjoy and be physically active most days of the week.
- Manage your weight or lower your health risks by consulting a registered dietitian nutritionist. RDNs can provide sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences and health-related needs.
For more great information about National Nutrition Month, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ NNM website.
For individuals struggling with overweight and obesity, focusing on body mass index (BMI) or the number of the scale may be the wrong health indicators.
An emerging body of literature suggests that an older measurement, the waist-to-hip ratio may be more valuable when assessing the impact of weight on health.
A new study published in the journal Obesity found that participants with a high waste-to-hip ratio had a higher risk of heart attack.
People with a high waist-to-hip ratio are often described as being “apple” shaped. Apple shaped individuals hold fat around their important vital organs. This type of fat leeches into the bloodstream easily and causes a negative effect on cholesterol and other blood fats.
The World Health Organization states that a healthy waist-to-hip ratio is less than 0.9 for men and less than 0.85 for women. It is important to note that there are no particular exercises you can do to reduce fat in one particular area of your body. “Spot reducing” does not work; rather, cardiovascular and strength building exercises can help convert fat to muscle and lower overall body fatness. For tips on calculating your own waist-to-hip ratio, click here.
Did you know that switching to a diet free of meat, dairy, and eggs saves 50% more carbon emissions than driving a Prius. Imagine choosing a diet that is not only healthy and tastes great but helps to protect our planet. The first study to look at a plant-based diet and estimate both its health and climate impact supports the idea of moving toward the elimination or reduction of meat in the diet. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, highlights the fact that what we choose to eat greatly impacts the global environment and our personal health. Choosing a diet that provides less meat and more fruits and vegetables could help to prevent 5.1 million deaths per year by 2050 and substantially decrease planet-warming emissions.
Oxford researchers modeled the effects of four different diets: A diet in which no guidelines are adopted; one that follows minimum global guidelines, a vegetarian diet, and a vegan diet. They found that in a world where everyone consumed a vegan diet 8.1 million fewer people would die due to complications from chronic disease per year, and food-related emissions contributing to climate change would be cut by an astonishing 70%. This was compared to a 29% decrease in emissions from a diet following dietary recommendations and a 63% reduction from a vegetarian diet.
What’s more, if the population were to adopt more vegan-based eating habits the countries that would have the greatest impact are the developed nations due to higher rates of meat consumption and obesity. Raising animals for food now uses a staggering 30% of the Earth’s land mass, in addition to using almost 80% of deforested land in the amazon as cattle pasture. So next time you are reaching for a meat-based protein do your body and the planet a favor and try substituting soy instead, as producing just one pound of meat compared to one pound of soy requires 12 times as much land, 13 times as much fossil fuel, and 15 times as much water.
Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Amanda Cravinho for her contributions to this post.
It’s not too late to get back to the basics of healthy eating. The importance of following a well-balanced and nutrient –dense eating plan packed with tasty foods is celebrated this month. National Nutrition Month®, created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is a campaign focused on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.
This year’s theme “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right” encourages taking a moment to enjoy the culture and tradition of food by soaking in the flavor and pleasure that nutritious foods provide. Make it a point this month to refocus your attention from concentrating on specific food and nutrients and instead vow to implement a healthy eating pattern by balancing a rainbow of tasty foods and beverages from each food group. The goal is to promote overall health by reducing the risk of chronic disease though maintaining a healthy weight, developing individualized physical activity habits, and practicing a balanced diet that get your taste buds dancing!
If you are looking to get involved this month here are some ideas:
- Plan a cooking demo or nutrition event
- Organize a National Nutrition Month® presentation at your local park district or senior center
- As a family, commit to trying a new fruit or vegetable each week during National Nutrition Month®.
- Organize a food donation campaign for a local food pantry or shelter
- Plan to eat more meals together as a family during National Nutrition Month®
For more information on National Nutrition Month® and how to get involved visit http://www.eatright.org/resources/national-nutrition-month
Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Amanda Cravinho for her contributions to this post.
If you’re a seeker of spicy foods, you may not only be increasing health benefits of your diet but increasing the possibility of a longer life.
Don’t fear the heat! A 2015 study looking at half a million people over a seven year period found that the consumption of spicy foods six-times per week reduced the risk of death by 14%, a 10% decreased risk was also seen when consumed twice a week. So what are the benefits these fiery foods provide?
Weight loss – Hot peppers have been shown to speed up metabolism and curb appetite. Researchers at Purdue University found satiating effects after eating fiery foods. In addition, a senior dietitian and professor at UCLA points to the relationship of how the scorching sensation in your mouth slows food consumption saying, “If you eat more slowly, you’re more likely to notice your body’s satiety cues. Some data has even shown that capsaicin (the active component of chili peppers) can increase the ability to burn calories.
Anti-inflammatory effects – Capsaicin may help with autoimmune conditions as these illnesses are less common in countries were spicy foods are consumed regularly.
Antimicrobial effects – Hot peppers have been used to preserve food and studies show capsaicin to have antibacterial and antifungal effects.
Pain Relief – When used topically, Capsaicin aids in the release of the body’s own opioids.
Be aware that there may be some downsides to consuming these scorching morsels, such as damaged taste buds (which will regenerate), uncomfortable bowel movements, and thinning of the blood. Individuals taking medications like warfarin should be cautious of capsaicin as it may thin blood too much, for others the blood thinning effects may be a benefit.
So if you’re an enthusiast of the heat… turn up the dial, as for many the good outweighs the bad.
Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Amanda Cravinho for her contributions to this post.
January 7, 2016 marked the release of the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 – 2020. Since the introduction of the dietary guidelines in 1980 15% of Americans were classifies as obese, now more than 35 years later this statistic has ballooned to 35% of all Americans. Obviously the intended messages of the guidelines are not impacting our society in the way they were intended. So what are the new dietary guidelines, how are they different, and how can they impact change in our society?
- Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan
- Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount
- Limit calories from added sugar and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake
- Shift to healthier food and beverage choices
- Support healthier eating patterns for all
How they are different:
The new dietary guidelines are much broader to allow focus on small changes in the diet instead of letting individual food groups and nutrients consume you. The key component is emphasis on a healthy eating pattern that is calorically appropriate to help support a healthy body weight and reduce risk of chronic disease. Shifts in personalized food and beverage choices need to be made to achieve a healthy eating pattern and increase nutrients of concern such as potassium, calcium, Vitamin D, and fiber.
A new specific limit on added sugars to less than 10% of calories is highlighted in the new guidelines. Paying attention to identifying sugary beverages in your diet and limiting these can make a huge impact on eliminating excessive calories in your diet and may even aid in trimming up your waistline.
There has also been a removal of a specific limit on dietary cholesterol. Evidence shows there is no relationship between dietary and serum cholesterol. It is now recommended that Americans eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible.
The new guidelines offer an adaptable framework to allow food choices that fit in your budget and align with personal and cultural preferences. Benefits of these new guidelines enable you to choose a diet that is right for you.
Below are key recommendations to consider when implementing a heathy eating pattern:
- Include a variety of vegetables – dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), and starchy
- Focus on fruits, especially whole
- Grab grains, at least half should be whole grains
- Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, fortified soy beverages)
- Implement in your diet a variety of protein foods (seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products)
- When possible, choose oils as fat sources
- Limit saturated fats, trans fats, added sugar, and sodium
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugar
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats
- Consume less than 2,300 mg per day of sodium
- Limit alcohol to one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men
- Meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise)
Simple solutions to make these recommendations work for YOU:
- Make a switch to replace sugary desserts with fruit instead
- Limit soda or energy drinks to one per day
- Tailor portion sizes to fit your needs
- Substitute medium or high fat protein for lean choices each day
- Cook more often at home to limit added sugar and sodium
- Make a conscience effort to increase daily activity
- The Mediterranean, vegetarian, and DASH diets are all examples of healthy eating patterns
Impact of society in order to implement change:
With the new dietary guidelines there is a shift toward the idea that everyone plays a role in supporting healthy eating patterns. It is time to recognize that there is more influence on our food choices than education and will power alone. Other factors play a vital role in influencing food choices such as, personal relationships, where you live, work, and shop. Health professionals, industries, government, and communities are needed to support Americans and their families in making dietary and physical activity choices that align with the Dietary Guidelines. It is important to support local farmers, get involved to increase recreational access in your neighborhood, and foster partnership with food manufacturers to align more accessibility to recommended foods. Everyone plays a role in making healthy changes and in improving the health of the current and future generation. For more information on the dietary guidelines please visit http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
Special thanks to dietetic intern Amanda Cravinho for her contributions to this post.
While we eat food every day, Food Day is a special day to think about what and how we eat. Food Day is on October 24 and the celebration seeks to “inspire Americans to change their diets and our food policies.”
Food Day was created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest but is championed by a diverse group of leaders in the food movement, public office, school settings and local organizers.
In addition to celebrating food, the Food Day movement has a number of national priorities that relate to our food system and “provide common ground for building the food movement”. Food Day seeks to:
- Promote safer, healthier diets
- Support sustainable and organic farms
- Reduce hunger and improve food access
- Reform factory farms to protect the environment and farm animals
- Support fair working conditions for food and farm workers
To get involved this year in Food Day, you can:
- Host an event
- Attend an event – search for an event here
- Check out the Essential Food Day Toolkit: 35 Ways to Change the Food System
This year as an added bonus, Food Day is partnering with EatingWell.com to host filmmaker Susan Rockefeller’s new film “Food for Though, Food for Life” that, “inspires us to think differently about what we eat, and to make changes that will positively impact our health, our communities and the environment”. The film will be available this month on the EatingWell.com website, available here.
The stats are in and the 2015 “State of Obesity” numbers are out. The State of Obesity – Better Policies for a Healthier America report is a project of the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
This year’s 2015 report has published the following findings:
- Rates of obesity exceed 35% in 3 states: Arkansas, West Virginia & Mississippi
- All states have obesity that exceeds 20% of the population
- Arkansas has the highest obesity rate at 35.9% and Colorado is the lowest at 21.3%
- 17% of children and more than 30% of adults are considered obese
Although obesity rates appear to be stabilizing, they are still high. Overweight and obesity are linked to increased risk of chronic disease like heart disease, diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer.
Obesity in adults is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. BMI is a function of weight divided by height squared and you can calculate your own BMI using an online BMI calculator. For children aged 2-19, use the Pediatric BMI calculator which uses percentiles to determine obesity.
We’ve all heard how people today are living longer than in generations gone by. Turn on the local news and you’re bound to see another man or woman celebrating 100 years.
It’s a comforting thought that we individually might have more time with our loved ones, right? What we may be forgetting is that living longer may not be in the form of a healthy elderly adult, but instead as a sick elderly adult.
A recent study published in the British Medical Journal The Lancet reported a 45% rise in diabetes from 1990-2013, as well as a rise in cancer. This study stated that there might be a link to the fact that we are living longer.
But don’t fret just yet! The authors also reported that in the US, diabetes complications (like amputations, kidney failure, heart attacks, and strokes) are actually down, due in part to advancements in medical care and monitoring.
What this means is that the gift of longer life comes with an obligation to take care of ourselves. Make sure to take action now regarding your health and wellness, so that your future years will be long and happy.
Here are some tips to help you along the way:
- Eat fruits and vegetables every day
- Make half your grains, whole grains
- Schedule cooking meals at home so you can control your healthy choices
- Schedule your physical activity every week for a minimum of 150 minutes
- Get annual physicals from your doctor
- Get your teeth cleaned regularly by your dentist
- Get 8 hours of sleep every night (or make-up sleep in the form of naps when you can!)
- Remove excess stressors from your life
- And, remember to laugh and seek out the things that bring you joy!
While these are general things we all have heard, they can be hard to remember to do regularly. Start with one of the items listed above and slowly make them a normal habit in your life. In no time at all, you can have a whole new group of healthy habits that will help you on your way to a healthy future!
Special thanks to dietetic intern Rebecca Dehamer for her contributions to this post.
With summer just around the corner, chances are you are firing up your grill and gearing up for backyard barbeques. If you want to make a splash this summer dining season, fix your focus on fruit.
Summer means peak season for lots of fruits (and veggies too!). For your next get together, why not gather up what’s fresh and in season? Check your local markets for apricots, blueberries, blackberries, bell peppers, melons (cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew), corn, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, nectarines, strawberries, summer squash, raspberries, peaches, plums, radishes, tomatoes, and zucchini.
Eating a variety of these foods will not only provide you with great sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients, it will also add some festive colors to your plate.
Here are some ideas on how to incorporate seasonal produce into both sweet and savory dishes:
- Corn and summer veggie sauté
- Cucumber salad
- Fruit kebabs with melon
- Summer squash pizza
- Stone fruit salad
- Summer veggie omelet
- Fruit smoothie with berries
- Pasta with tomato and eggplant
- Frozen melon pops
- Tomato and corn salsa
- Peach ice cream
- Chicken with blueberry sauce
- Zucchini muffins
- Water infused with strawberry and mint
For more creative fruit and vegetable ideas check out Fruits & Veggies More Matters.
Special thanks to dietetic intern Megan Fobar, MS for her contributions to this post.