Every 5 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) get together. Their mission is to publish dietary guidelines for all people beyond the age of 2. These guidelines are based on the current evidence-based research to promote optimal health and nutrition.
The dietary recommendations for 2015 – 2020, suggest we eat a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods accompanied by fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry without the skin, fish, legumes, non-tropical vegetable oils and a variety of seeds and nuts. While the guidelines suggest choices from all food groups, as part of a daily healthy diet, they do recommend limiting excess or added saturated fats, sugars and sodium to help reduce the risk of chronic disease.
In addition, the guidelines highlight the connection between diet and some kind of physical activity. Their recommendation is that all Americans aim to engage in some sort of age-specific physical activity.
These new guidelines fit perfectly with this year’s theme for National Nutrition Month, “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.”
The idea for establishing a National Nutrition Month was created back in 1973, by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Celebrated annually in March, its purpose is to increase awareness of what we are eating, are lifestyle, and inspire us to make better choices, become health conscious, and develop better habits for living well.
I also believe it should be a time to reflect on our reltionships, family, kindness and compassion and developing ourselves to be the best we can be.
Here are some suggestions to help you get yourself on the path to health and abundant living.
Rethink Your Drink.
Sugar sweetened beverages offer excess calories and zero nutrition. Stay with water, even carbonated water, 100% organic juices and unsweetened drinks. Even coffee has health benefits, but go light on the sugar.
Fat, Friend or Foe.
There has always been tremendous controversey over the fat content in our diets. And while the new dietary guidelines may give the green light to eating eggs and some lean meats, the American Heart Association continues to recommend a diet lower in saturated fats found in many animal proteins and limiting egg yolks to four per week. You can look to plant souces for additional protein, and explore more pleasing recipes with fish to cut the fat. When it comes to oils, make sure you know what you are getting. Recent studies have shown vegetable oils to be very toxic.
Adorn Your Plate with a Rainbow.
Fill your plate with an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating a variety of colorful produce will give your body more of the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients it needs every day. Diets based on a variety of plant sources are usually lower in calories and fat, and higher in fiber.
Hold the Junk.
Most processed food today is loaded with high salts, artificial sweetners, and toxic oils not to mention ingredients of questionable nutrition. Manufacturers like to use products that cut their costs and more times than not, they are not thinking about health or nutrition. A very common food additive is cottonseed oil. It is highly saturated, contains natural toxins and has unacceptably high level of pesticides. Be on the watch for cottonseed oil in packaged foods. It should be completely avoided.
What it comes down to is this… at the end of the day, should you follow the new dietary guidelines or not? The most important thing to remember is food should not only nourish and support the body, but the mind as well. You have to be the judge of how a particular food makes you feel, your energy levels, mental clarity, and any possible allergic reactions. Research does support that sitting down and engaging with family or friends at mealtimes does promote healthier food choices and improves emotional well-being.
Participating in regular exercise with a partner also plays a huge role in positive physical and psychological health. Eat out less often and try making home-cooked meals, take a walk after dinner and engage in more meaningful conversation.
Simply, enjoy good living.