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For your health: Enjoy the taste of eating healthy
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“Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” is the theme for National Nutrition Month, which is a campaign created annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses on the importance of making informed food choices while developing sound eating and physical activity habits. This year’s message is combining taste and nutrition to create healthy meals following dietary guidelines.

Released in 2010, Dietary Guidelines for Americans offer practical changes in eating habits designed to improve health. They are:

* Balance calories to manage weight with physical activity.

* Increase intake of whole grains; vegetables; fruits; fat-free and low-fat dairy products; oils such as canola, corn, olive and peanut; and choose seafood instead of meat or poultry.

* Reduce intake of added sugars; saturated (solid) fats, including trans fats; refined grains; and sodium (salt).

To incorporate the guidelines into your daily life, follow these healthy tips:

* Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. They are naturally low in calories, rich in vitamins and minerals and may help reduce the risk of diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers.

* Choose a variety of vegetables rich in color, especially dark green, red and orange, plus beans and peas. Fresh, frozen and canned vegetables all count, but select “reduced sodium” or “no-salt-added” canned vegetables.

* Make at least half of your grains whole. Choose 100 percent whole grain breads, cereals, crackers, pasta and brown rice. Benefits include: reduction in risk of stroke, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and improved weight maintenance.

* Look for fiber-rich cereals to help keep your digestive tract happy.

* Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese. Consuming three servings daily can help maintain a healthy weight and provides calcium and vitamin D to support bone health. A trio of minerals — calcium, potassium and magnesium — may play a role in managing blood pressure.

* Eat a variety of proteins each week, including seafood, nuts, beans and peas, lean meat, poultry and eggs. Proteins supply B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc and magnesium. Protein functions as building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, blood, enzymes and hormones.

* Selecting cold water fish as a seafood choice. They are a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Eating two servings a week of Omega 3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

* Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars. Choose herbs and spices without salt to spice up your foods.

* Watch for salt in foods you buy. Compare labels and choose those with lower sodium content.

* Make desserts, pizza, cheese, sausage, hot dogs and other high-fat foods, occasional choices. Do not eat them every day foods.

* Switch from solid fats, such as butter, to oils when preparing food.

* Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

* Enjoy your food but eat less. Avoid oversized portions. Try using a smaller plate, bowl and glass.

* Cook more at home, where you have control of what is in your food and how it is prepared.

* When eating out, choose lower-calorie menu options. Choose dishes including fruits, vegetables and whole grains. When portions are larger, share a meal or take home half for later.

* Get active and start slow. Gradually increase your minutes of activity as you become stronger.

And if you need more advice or have special dietary needs, make sure you consult a registered dietitian for a healthy meal plan.

Karen Hunter is the clinical nutrition manager at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

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