March is National Nutrition Month and a time for us to focus on our health. Staying healthy is a lifestyle choice that can make us look and feel our best. By making informed, nutritious food choices and keeping active we can change the way our bodies perform.
A good way to learn about making healthy food choices is to review the basics of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines are jointly written every 5 years by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In a nutshell, the guidelines address questions in three main areas:
- What should Americans eat?
- How should we prepare our food to keep it safe and wholesome?
- How should we be active to be healthy?
- Fruits: Fruit is a great addition to meals, an on-the-go snack, or a low-calorie dessert. Choose fresh, frozen, or canned, and aim to eat about 2 cups of fruit each day. *When choosing canned fruit, look for varieties canned in 100 percent juice or water, to reduce added sugar intake.
- Vegetables: When choosing veggies, the more colorful they are the more nutrient-packed. Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green, red and orange vegetables. Most adults need 2½ cups of vegetables per day.
- Low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese or fortified soy beverages: These products are packed with calcium, vitamin D, protein and potassium. Aim for 3 cups per day, and if you are lactose intolerant there are tons of options for you - lactose-free milk, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, etc.
- Whole grains: Try to make at least half the grains you eat during the day whole grains. Choose whole-grain breads and cereals, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta.
- Healthy vegetable oils such as canola, corn, olive, peanut and soybean: These are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. *Use in moderate amounts in place of solid fats.
- Seafood: Include a variety of seafood more often in place of some meat and poultry.
- Sodium - read the labels when choosing packaged, canned, or frozen foods. These items typically contain a lot of salt, but many times there are lower sodium options.
- Solid fats, including trans fats - anything with "partially hydrogenated" oils in the ingredient list contains trans fats - avoid these items!
- Refined grains - white breads, white pastas, etc.
- Added sugars
To learn more about nutrition and healthy eating visit the UAB Recreaction Center and schedule an appointment with the Registered Dietitian, or send an email to email@example.com
Alexandra Cone, MS, RD, LD
UAB Recreation Center