Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Healthy Eating Tips

As the holiday season approaches, these healthy eating tips may be useful for you to have a enjoyable holiday without overdoing it.

The first step in staying healthy is to eat healthy. Healthy eating is about eating a variety of foods that give you the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals necessary to maintain good health, give you energy, and stabilize your mood. Healthy eating is not a diet. Diets are temporary and often lack nutritional value. Eating healthy is about maintaining an enjoyable life-long eating habit. Healthy food choices can reduce the risk of illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the second leading cause of death for Asian Americans. Furthermore, Asian Americans are almost twice as likely to develop diabetes as the general population in the United States, and of those who develop diabetes, more than 95% are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Healthy eating does not need to be difficult and in this column, we will discuss a few simple nutrition basics that you can apply to your eating plan.

In order to maintain good health a healthy eating plan should be adopted. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, a healthy eating plan should:

  • Emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products;
  • Include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts;
  • Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars;
  • Stay within your daily calorie needs.

Drastically changing your food choices may be difficult at first, so it is better to gradually introduce new foods into your new eating plan. Do not think about foods that you cannot have; think about the abundance of new foods that you can have!

  • Fruits – Be adventurous and try new fruits that you have not tried before! Try to stay away from canned fruits that contain added sugars and syrups. Fresh fruits naturally contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber that help protect you from disease and are naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories. Research shows that people who eat more fruits have reduced risk for some chronic diseases.
  • Vegetables –Try something new such as grilling, roasting, or steaming your vegetables. When having canned vegetables, make sure to avoid vegetables with added salt, butter, or cream sauces. Frozen vegetables are also a quick, easy, and healthy option. Like fruits, vegetables naturally contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber that help protect you from disease. When choosing your veggies, choose ones that are rich in color like tomato, bell pepper, squash, kale, and eggplant.
  • Healthy carbohydrates – Experiment with whole grains and find a favorite to replace white rice and white breads. You can include a wide variety of whole grains in your eating plans, such as whole wheat, brown rice, millet, quinoa, and barley. The general rule is that half your grains should be whole grains.
  • Protein – Protein can be found in various different sources, such as fish, poultry, beans, nuts, seeds, tofu, eggs, and soy. Experimenting with different types of protein will allow you to have an abundance of variety during meal times. In fact, it is recommended to eat more plant protein foods and seafood, instead of meat, twice a week. 
  • Healthy fats – You can find healthy monounsaturated fats from nuts and plant oils such as canola, peanut, and olive oils. Polyunsaturated fats (including Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids) can be found in fish, such as salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines.
  • Calcium – While most people get calcium from dairy products, many Asian Americans are lactose intolerant. However, there is still an abundance of non-dairy foods you can eat that are rich in calcium, like soy, leafy green vegetables, beans, and legumes.

Healthy eating is all about balance, which means that you do not have to completely give up your favorite foods.  According to the CDC, the key to eating foods high in fat, calories, and added sugar is moderation. Think of these foods as occasional treats and not as everyday foods.  When you do have them, make sure you balance them out with healthy foods as well as physical activity.  However, moderation may be difficult to maintain for certain individuals. If that is the case it may be best to completely avoid these foods until a healthy eating plan is maintained.

Some general tips for cutting back on foods that are high in fat, calories, and added sugars:

  • Prepare the food with healthier alternatives. If the recipe requires butter, try swapping it with a healthy fat such as olive oil, or if the recipe requires full fat milk, replace it with lower fat milk.
  • Eat them less often. Try to limit these types of foods to once or twice a month.
  • Eat smaller amounts. 

Once you add these simple eating habits to your eating plan you will find that healthy eating is not too difficult to maintain. These small changes will help you feel better and your overall health will
likely improve.

The Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services’ Asian American Health Initiative (AAHI) encourages you to take steps now towards adopting a healthy eating plan for your health and overall well-being. Talk to your doctor if you would like more information on a healthy eating plan. If you are a Montgomery County resident, low-income, and uninsured, you can learn more about eating healthy by contacting Montgomery Cares Clinics through the County’s non-emergency information line, MC311, at 240-777-0311.