Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian
This March marks the 40th anniversary of National Nutrition Month. Every March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics promotes National Nutrition Month as a way to encourage Americans to eat healthfully. And, this year, the theme, “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day,” encourages us to eat in a way that promotes our individual health needs.
There are certainly a lot of diets out there and different conditions and diseases that have specific dietary needs. So, the one size fits all approach is not necessarily the best plan for everyone. Think about how many ethnic cuisines exist – many of which promote lower risk of chronic disease than the typical “American diet.” But, who is to say that the eating style in countries like France, Greece or Japan is the “best”?
We know certain eating styles promote health. Take for instance the Mediterranean diet which has recently been highlighted in the news as very healthful. Recent findings published in the February 25 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine found the Mediterranean Diet to significantly lower the risk of heart attack, stroke and death from heart disease. While the study itself had its limitations, the take away message was the typical Mediterranean diet [characterized many fruits, vegetables (including legumes), nuts, olive oil and whole grains; healthy amounts of fish and poultry; wine in moderation at mealtime; and limited or absent amounts of meats, refined sugars and dairy products] is very healthy and may in fact protect your heart.
Then of course, in Japan, where rice is a staple or France where bread is a daily food, (no, carbs are not the enemies!), you find lower rates of many chronic diseases and one’s relationship with food is more often healthy – rather than disordered.
In addition, take the different dietary needs for different digestive conditions – celiac disease, food allergy, lactose intolerance, Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome all require following specific meal plans. While some are set in stone, others vary from person to person.
The secret? Well, there is no secret. Generally, healthful portion sizes of fruits and vegetables, low intakes of refined grains (like pastries, sugary drinks and candies) and a focus on a balance of protein and healthy fats makes way for health.
One’s mindset is essential in order to have a healthy relationship with food, too. Working to promote positive self talk, acceptance and mindfulness while eating work in concert with healthy food choices to have longterm health.
Knowing your personal healthy meal plan stems from a combination of factors. Every person has different and specific dietary needs. Your lifestyle affects those needs. Things like gender, age, activity level and health conditions all affect one’s dietary requirements. So often, people ask for a certain calorie meal plan and assume it will be the best way to achieve healthy weight. And while calories and appropriate portion control are essential to maintaining a healthy weight, so are the types of foods you choose.
So if gobbling down donuts, fast foods and sodas without much thought makes up a portion of your usual food routine, this National Nutrition Month is a good time to reconsider what it means to Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day.
While we may not eat the same as our neighbors, parents or siblings, finding a way to eat right for ourselves is well worth the effort as a means to longterm health.