Eat right and stay fit

By Marcia Kyle | Mar 22, 2009

National Nutrition Month is the annual nutrition education and information campaign held each March by the American Dietetic Association. The theme for 2009 – eat right and stay fit – is the key to good health year-round.

The best way to eat right is to follow these simple messages emphasized in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture.

Eat more fruit, vegetables, whole grains and reduced fat or fat-free milk and milk products.

Include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts.

Minimize intake of saturated (hard fats) and trans fats (hydrogenated), cholesterol, salt and added sugars.

Selecting foods that provide the most nutrition for the fewest calories can help you maintain a healthy weight and give you the energy necessary for being physically active. Consider this example of the importance of exercising to stay fit: My 14-year-old son was working on a school health project recently that required creating a personal fitness plan. When calculating how many calories he needs for everyday activities versus calories needed when he trains for track this spring, his energy needs went up by 600 calories a day. Keep in mind: he needs to exercise vigorously for at least 60 minutes to require the extra calories. Most of us adults don't need more calories. Our goals of staying moderately active, such as taking a 30-minute brisk walk daily, and following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are necessary to prevent that well-known "middle-age spread."

Special needs as we age

Calcium and vitamin D help maintain bone health. Include at least three servings of vitamin D-fortified, reduced fat or fat-free milk or yogurt each day. If you take a calcium or multivitamin/mineral supplement, choose one that contains vitamin D.

Vitamin B12, found in fortified cereals, lean meat and some fish and seafood, is often lacking. For some older adults who no longer absorb vitamin B12, a supplement may be essential. Ask your doctor or dietitian if you need a B12 supplement.

Fiber-rich foods such as whole-grain breads and cereals, beans and peas, as well as the recommended five-a-day servings of fruits and vegetables, help with regularity while lowering the risk for heart disease and preventing type 2 diabetes.

More potassium and less sodium lower the risk of developing high blood pressure. Potassium-rich foods include fruits and vegetables and reduced or fat-free milk and yogurt. Choose and prepare foods with little or no added salt.

Focus on children

Healthy eating and physical activity must be a family affair. The adults set the stage for a lifetime of health. Make the most of family mealtime. Having the children take part in shopping and meal preparation is the perfect opportunity to help develop a healthy attitude toward food and is a great time to catch up on the day's activities.

Active children need planned, healthy snacks but also need guidance. The marketing of high-calorie nutritionally poor snack foods -- especially soda -- can sabotage any parent. Keep a variety of ready to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, and reduced fat and fat-free foods on hand. Don't cave in to your child's demands for the latest snack advertised on television. And when it comes to television, research shows that reducing the amount of time in front of the TV or computer screen to two hours a day, staying active as a family with walks before dinner and limiting soda will assure your children the start of a lifetime of health.

Go to the Web site mypyramid.gov to get the calorie level with amounts from each food group you require to eat right and stay fit at any age. Need more help with staying active and eating healthy? Don't forget registered dietitians and our commitment to help people enjoy healthy lives.
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