SPRINGFIELD — Making healthy food choices to maintain good health isn’t enough; people must make informed food choices that meet their own special nutrient requirements within their calorie limits, said clinical dietitian Sheila Sullivan of Baystate Medical Center. “People often overestimate their calorie requirements and underestimate how many calories they burn.”
Each March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages Americans to return to the basics of healthful eating through National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme, “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle,” encourages consumers to adopt a healthy lifestyle that is focused on consuming fewer calories, making informed choices, and getting daily exercise. The goal is to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health.
Age, gender, body type, family history, existing health conditions, and daily routines all play a factor in determining which foods to eat more of and which to avoid when trying to optimize health. “A registered dietitian can help you learn your nutrient requirements and limits and teach you how to follow a nutrition plan that is right for you,” said Sullivan.
Also, understanding what is in food is essential to making informed choices while building an eating plan that meets one’s tastes. “Good food takes some thought, ingredients on hand, some time, and some labor,” said Baystate clinical dietitian Paula Serafino-Cross. “The new dietary guidelines to be released are again encouraging us to eat more veggies, but our intake has actually decreased over the past few years. Frozen veggies are an easy way to incorporate more into the diet; they just need a little doctoring up with some added garlic and olive oil.”
When food selections go beyond whole foods and into packaged foods, understating what fits and what doesn’t may not be as clear.
“Look at the nutrition-facts label to be sure your choices are staying within the guidelines for healthy Americans and fit your specific needs. Eat whole foods; the fewer ingredients, the better,” said Baystate clinical dietitian Rubina Husain.
Regular physical activity is a must. Most health benefits come from at least 150 minutes a week of moderately intense physical activity, with added advantages from increased exercise and intensity. Endurance and muscle-strengthening activities like lifting weights, working with a resistance band, or doing pushups are also beneficial.
“Fitting exercise into a busy lifestyle may seem difficult, but just walking will help you to meet your exercise goals,” said Baystate clinical dietitian Jeff Sautter.
Making the right food and nutrition choices is a necessary part of biting into a healthy lifestyle. A registered dietitian nutritionist can help. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education, and advocacy. Visit the Academy at eatrightpro.org for more information.