Healthy Eating

In the United States, skyrocketing rates of obesity are causing concern. While 13 percent of children under the age of 12 are overweight, 17 percent of teenagers are similarly unhealthy. Sadly, this percent nearly doubles (to a whopping 32 percent) when describing the number of overweight adult Americans.

Within recent decades, the U.S. government has changed the food pyramid to help us improve our nutrition. Despite this change, some people are still unsure about how to eat properly and maintain a healthy diet. Consistently getting the proper nutrition will help you maintain a healthy weight while also sustaining your general wellbeing.

Some of the health problems that eating a proper diet can ward off include:

  • certain cancers
  • diabetes
  • heart attack
  • heart disease
  • high cholesterol
  • hypertension
  • obesity
  • osteoporosis
  • stroke.

Your Guide to the Food Pyramid

For years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture touted their food pyramid as being the best tool for understanding our nutrition needs. A few years ago, however, the food pyramid received a much-needed overhaul.

Currently, the food pyramid is matched to your specific height, weight, age and gender. Similarly, it includes details specific to the nutritional guidelines for pregnant women and nursing mothers. Some of the other information presented in this new food pyramid’s healthy eating standards include:

  • Calcium: The recommended serving for dairy products or calcium supplements is up to twice per day.
  • Fish: While fish provides us with many of our nutritional needs, you should limit your intake to two or three times per week due to mercury concerns. Salmon is safer, and adults can eat it daily. Fish oil supplements, when taken as directed, are a great alternative to eating fish and seafood.
  • Fruits: Every person needs two or three servings of fruit or fruit juices per day. While there is natural sugar in fruit, the vitamins and antioxidants are also important to maintaining our health.
  • Grains: Eat whole grains at every meal. White flour and white rice are not considered whole grains. Barley, brown rice, couscous and bulgur provide fiber and grains that make them excellent choices.
  • Nuts/Legumes: Almonds and walnuts contain beneficial nut oils that help prevent a number of diseases. Legumes like kidney beans and soybeans increase fiber intake. Eating three servings of these nuts and legumes is part of healthy eating.
  • Plant Oils: Nutrition experts urge people to use olive and sunflower oil because they are healthier than other oils. Plant oils include canola oil, sesame oil, olive oil, corn oil, peanut oil and sunflower oil.
  • Poultry/Eggs: Chicken and turkey are both good for the body and low in fat, provided you stick to white meat. Up to two servings of eggs and poultry per day is perfect for those sticking to healthy eating regimens.
  • Red Meat: Once listed with other proteins and meats, red meat, especially beef, is now considered detrimental to your diet. The link between colon cancer and red meat should not be ignored. Eaten in moderation, iron-rich beef is okay, but don’t eat it more than once or twice a week.
  • Vegetables: Experts recommend eating at least one or two servings of vegetables with each meal and for snacks. Vegetables are building blocks to good nutrition, so stock up!

Sugar, white flour and processed foods are completely off the pyramid now, meaning that you should avoid eating them. Sugary sodas, candies and other sweet treats only add to the waistline. Nutritionists advise patients to pay close attention to the glycemic index when choosing foods for a healthy eating plan.

The Glycemic Index

The glycemic index measures how quickly or slowly your body processes the sugars in the food you eat. Your body burns these natural sugars slowly and avoids the need to boost insulin production. Foods that are highly beneficial and have low glycemic indexes include:

  • barley
  • cherries
  • grapefruit
  • lentils
  • peanuts
  • plums
  • pumpernickel bread
  • soybeans
  • tomatoes
  • whole grain pasta
  • yogurt.

Following the glycemic index and the food pyramid are excellent ways to get a jumpstart on healthy eating.

For those who drink alcohol, you may have additional questions on drinking. While wine is best, some studies have pointed out that dark beers can be just as healthy as wine. Either way, drinking alcohol in moderation is safe and possibly good for your heart. The trick is to stick to one or two drinks per day.