Dietary Choices Profoundly Affect Health Status

Remember the Food Pyramid, the long-time gold standard for nutritious meal planning suggested decades ago by the United States Department of Agriculture? It has been replaced by MyPlate as the model for healthy eating and well-balanced meals. It’s critical to understand the relationship between diet and health and develop eating patterns necessary to achieve or maintain optimal health.

Poor dietary choices contribute to an increased risk of developing chronic diseases. According to information from Harvard Medical School, two of every three Americans are overweight or obese. This contributes to an increased incidence of developing diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as other problematic conditions. But making judicious choices in your eating patterns can improve the odds of positively affecting your health status. And the MyPlate guidelines help to do just that.

MyPlate is comprised of four segments featuring a plate on which you can ideally plan for 40% vegetables, 10% fruits, 20% protein and 30% grains. Another small supplement represents dairy items partnered with this combination to include such nutritional enrichments as yogurt or a glass of milk. Of course, many of the recommended nutritional guidelines remain central to healthy eating. It’s important to eat a balanced variety of foods, with more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods and animal products. Reducing consumption of sauces, dressings and cooking oils contributes to better weight management.

To improve nutritional status, reduce sodium (salt) intake, and add potassium-rich foods such as citrus fruits and bananas, and calcium-rich foods such as spinach, broccoli and low-fat dairy items. Grain products, particularly whole grain items, should be included daily. Fish is an important source of protein, but prepare fish by broiling or baking rather than frying. Reduce caloric intake from sugar and saturated fats, and control intake of calorie-dense alcoholic beverages.

The United States Department of Agriculture suggests ideal daily caloric intakes based on age and activity levels. However, a general recommendation suggests daily caloric consumption for most women between 1,600 and 2,400 calories and for most men between 2,000 and 3,000 calories. These recommendations can vary depending on weight loss requirements and exercise limitations. Keep in mind that weight management via dietary modifications goes hand in hand with portion control and an exercise regimen.

Discuss dietary considerations and changes with your provider, and involve him or her in developing your nutritional plan. Set reasonable goals for weight loss or maintenance and include exercise goals to which you’re likely to adhere. Nutritional awareness can launch your journey to better health.

Author
Ithaca Primary Care

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