March is National Nutrition Month, which was created by the American Dietetic Association (ADA) to increase nutrition education and awareness. The theme this year is “Eat Right with Color”. In a previous article I devoted a full column to this important topic (see “What Color is Your Plate?”). In January of this year the USDA released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines are a practical roadmap to help you make changes in your eating pattern to improve your health. Let’s take a look at what the guidelines entail.
The Dietary Guidelines encourage Americans to increase some foods and nutrients and decrease others. Some things to increase are your daily whole grains. Your goal should be to have at least half of your daily grains be whole grains, such as brown rice, and whole grain bread, pasta, and cereal. Vegetable intake should also be increased. The more color on your plate the better. Aim for 2 ½ cups of veggies per day for most adults. Fruit is a great snack and can be added to salads and salsas to increase your intake. Your goal should be 2 cups of fruit per day. If you have color at every meal, it will be easier to achieve your daily intake requirements. Dairy or fortified soy beverages are important in our diets to give us calcium, vitamin D, protein and potassium. Make your dairy options low fat or fat-free, but be careful with fat-free yogurt because the fat has been replaced with sugar increasing the calorie count. Include healthy oils in your diet, such as canola, olive, and peanut oil. These oils are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils. Seafood, especially fatty fish from cold waters, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut are high in essential omega-3 fatty acids. Our bodies cannot manufacture omega-3 fatty acids, so we need to get this nutrient from our food. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation and may decrease your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
Now let’s review the items to reduce in your diet. Research has shown that most Americans consume more than one-third of their calories from saturated fats and added sugars. Saturated fats are easily recognizable, in that they are naturally solid at room temperature. Your goal should be to eat less food that contains solid fats, trans fats, added sugars, and refined grains. The new guidelines for sodium remain the same for about half the population, which is 2,300 milligrams per day. Reducing your sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams per day is suggested for people 51 years and older, African-Americans, and people with a history of high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease and/or diabetes. To reduce your sodium intake, decrease the amount of processed foods you eat, use herbs and spices in place of salt when cooking, and read food labels. Eating fruits and veggies, which are low in sodium and high in nutrients and fiber, will also add more color to your diet.
March 9th is Registered Dietitian (RD) Day, a day set aside to increase awareness of registered dietitians and their role in providing indispensable nutrition information. This day recognizes RDs for their commitment to helping people enjoy healthy lives. Visit the ADA website at EatRight.org for more on Registered Dietitian Day and the key messages listed below:
- Registered Dietitians are food and nutrition experts who can translate the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living.
- Registered Dietitians have degrees in nutrition, dietetics, public health or a related field from well-respected, accredited colleges and universities, completed an internship and passed an examination.
- Registered Dietitians use their nutrition expertise to help individuals make unique, positive lifestyle changes.
- Registered Dietitians work throughout the community in hospitals, schools, public health clinics, nursing homes, fitness centers, food management, food industry, universities, research and private practice.
- Registered Dietitians are advocates for advancing the nutritional status of Americans and people around the world.
When looking for help achieving a healthy lifestyle please seek out a Registered Dietitian, as they are the experts when it comes to translating nutritional science into everyday living.