March 2011 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley our local area public health nurse… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

March is National Nutrition Month and is sponsored yearly by The American Dietetic Association. Started in 1973, National Nutrition Month is a nutrition and education campaign to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices, developing sound eating habits, and developing sound physical activity habits.

According to Healthy Maine 2010, about 60% of Maine people are overweight or obese. Thirty percent of Maine children are considered overweight or obese. Weight is not the only measure of good nutrition and health. Dietary fiber, Vitamin D, calcium, and potassium are often lacking in American diets.

The theme for National Nutrition Month 2011 is “Eat Right With Color”. It is important to include a colorful variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and dairy to your daily diet. Green produce indicates antioxidant potential and may help to promote healthy vision and reduce cancer risks. Orange and deep yellow produce contain nutrients that promote healthy vision and immunity and may reduce the risk of certain cancers. Purple and blue options may have antioxidant and anti-aging benefits and may help with memory, urinary tract health, and reduced cancer risks. Red indicates produce that may help to maintain a healthy heart, vision, immunity, and reduced cancer risks. White, tan, and brown foods sometimes contain nutrients that may promote heart health and reduce cancer risks. Fill half your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables because they are low in calories and high in nutrients.

Three simple changes that can really make a difference are:

  1. Having mealtime as a family is one of the easiest and most important activities to help promote healthy eating. During mealtime, children learn about foods and food preferences. Eat together at the table and do not allow interruptions like TV or the telephone. Try to introduce one new food item at least a few times per week.
  2. Teach children about portion control. Start by using smaller plates. If people are still hungry, they can always have seconds. Offer vegetables and fruits and every meal. Allow children to serve themselves and if they get full do not force them to finish what is on their plates. Avoid soda, fruit juices, and sugary drinks.
  3. Find fun activities and be active as a family. Try to plan one activity every week. Keep it simple like a bicycle ride or a family walk. Begin with 15-20 minutes and then try to work up to one hour. Encourage all family members to suggest activities. And remember, there is NO waking activity that we do that burns fewer calories than watching TV!

For more information, visit www.eatright.org, www.kidseatright.org, and mypyramid.gov.  In January, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans was released. The guidelines are a joint effort between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. These guidelines are updated every five years and are available at www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010.

These guidelines are evidence based. Things to reduce in our diets are salt, fat, cholesterol, sugary drinks and alcohol. Things to increase are fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fiber, seafood, and plant based protein like beans. The new guidelines also discuss food choices and eating behaviors like snacking, eating fast foods, eating breakfast, and portion control.

Don’t forget to eat well to stay well!

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