Archive for Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Nutrition month emphasizes value of healthful diet changes

March 13, 2002


Isn't March National Nutrition Month? What is the theme this year?

Yes, March is National Nutrition Month, and the 2002 theme is "Start Today for a Healthy Tomorrow." The nutrition campaign, sponsored annually by the American Dietetic Assn., is designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. The key messages this year focus on how:

 Making healthful eating, physical activity and lifestyle choices can benefit people of all ages.

 Trying new foods and new physical activities can jump-start your plans for health.

 Employing the Food Guide Pyramid as a road map ensures a diet featuring a variety of foods. Use moderation when selecting portion sizes and balance food choices over time.

 Taking the first step toward making healthful choices can be easier if you enlist help from friends and family.

More information about National Nutrition Month is available online at

How can I start to change my diet?

Practice healthful eating habits every day. Eating a nutritious diet will give you benefits today and in the future, including better health, greater quality of life and increased ability to function.

Choosing health-promoting foods offers immediate benefits, such as increased energy, as well as long-term benefits, such as reduced risk of disease.

A nourishing diet can taste great and be satisfying. With a willingness to increase your nutrition knowledge, some planning, a few practical behavior changes and a little help and encouragement from others, you can start today to build a healthy tomorrow.

Those trying to eat more healthfully should choose nutrient-rich foods high in protein, vitamins and minerals and low in calories and fats. Knowing that you should choose a variety of foods may not be the same as doing it. It doesn't have to be difficult.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that for good health, you follow the Food Guide Pyramid. This easy-to-use visual tool helps explain the food groups and how to choose from them. You can start today by choosing:

 At least six daily servings of a variety of grain products, with at least three of them being whole grains.

 At least two daily servings of a variety of fruits.

 At least three daily servings of a variety of vegetables, with at least one of them being dark green or deep yellow vegetables.

 A diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat is recommended. For example, eat no more than 15 to 20 grams of saturated fat per day if you consume 1,400 to 2,000 calories per day. Opt for low-fat protein and dairy foods.

 A diet that is moderate in total fat. Eat no more than 30 percent of calories from fat. This would be 50 to 65 grams fat per day or less if you eat 1,500 to 2,000 calories per day. Choose low-fat main dishes, side dishes, desserts and snacks. Strive to prepare foods with little additional fats or oils.

 Foods with less salt.

 Foods and beverages with moderate amounts of sugar.

 Plenty of fluids. But if you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.

Also include physical activity each day. Thirty or more minutes of exercise on most  preferably all  days of the week is recommended for optimal health. But even if it's only 10 minutes, you can always work your way up.

As you make changes, remember that you may have some days that don't go as you planned. If this happens, focus on your overall goal  a healthy tomorrow  and get back on track.

How can I encourage my children to eat a healthful diet?

Set a good example for children by eating healthfully and staying active.

"Childhood nutrition is so important, and children learn by example," said Jeff Hampl, American Dietetic Assn. spokesperson and a Phoenix-based registered dietitian. "By incorporating lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains into their diets, parents can be a great role model for good nutrition."

Encourage your children to help in meal planning and preparation. Allow them to choose their favorite vegetable at the grocery store and have them help prepare dinner. Even if it's just stirring or pouring, children want to feel like they're a part of the process.

Create family meals that include a range of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lean meats and low-fat dairy products. Studies show that incorporating good nutrition at an early age can have many positive effects on your short- and long-term health. Make healthy eating a family affair.

 Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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