Nutrition: Guidelines to Eat Healthy

Eat Healthy: New GuidelinesScreen_Shot_2016-01-22_at_3.37.19_PM

Eating properly is essential to good health. New federal dietary guidelines emphasize that all food choices matter and contribute to healthy weight, proper nutrition, and reducing disease. Eating the right foods, in a healthy eating pattern, support a healthy body over time.

What’s the “big message” of the new dietary guidelines?

The new dietary guidelines show that our diets are too low in fruits, vegetables, dairy, and healthy oils. They also indicate that eating adequate grains and proteins are essential. Most people, however, do not get enough whole grains and our intake of protein from seafood and legumes (beans, peas, lentils, soybeans, peanuts) is too low. The guidelines also state that we eat excessive amounts of sugar, sodium, and saturated fat. We should consume less than 10 percent of our calories per day from added sugars and saturated fats and less than 2300 mg of sodium per day.

What is a healthy eating pattern?

A healthy eating pattern consists of all foods and drinks that you consume over time. There is more than one type of eating healthy pattern and it can be adapted to your taste preferences, culture, traditions, and budget. It also includes a variety of nutritious foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat and fat-free dairy, lean meats, and other proteins and oils. It also limits saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars, and sodium.

A healthy eating pattern ideally must be combined with regular physical activity to promote optimum health and reduce the risk of chronic disease such as heart disease and diabetes. The relationship between diet and physical activity also contributes to calorie balance and maintaining proper body weight.

While it may sound difficult to change what you eat, small improvements over time should be your goal. For example, we recommend switching from a refined-flour bread to a whole-grain bread. You should also add more fruit and vegetable choices to your meals. And stop adding salt to your food. Most of us eat 50 percent more salt daily than the new guidelines recommend. Making shifts in food choices slowly will help you meet proper nutrient needs.

What is Weeks doing to support the new dietary guidelines?

Weeks is in the process of reworking all of our inpatient menus to meet the new dietary guidelines. We also will be working with our cafeteria to redefine our menu offerings. Our two staff dieticians also provide counseling and recommendations on diet, weight loss, and diabetes educations upon request. To speak with a dietician, contact your primary care provider for a referral. We also currently offer a monthly diabetes support group and newsletter. Our plans also include developing a weight loss support group.

What can I do to benefit from the new dietary guidelines?

To lead a healthier, more active life, the new dietary guidelines recommend you:

  • Establish a personal healthy eating pattern
  • Eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods across all food groups
  • Limit calories from added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium
  • Support healthy eating patterns at home, at school, and in the community

For more information on the new federal dietary guidelines, please visit health.gov.

To schedule an appointment with a primary care provider or request a referral to see a dietician, please call 603-788-5095.

by Jennifer Nobles, dietician