The key to achieving optimal health cannot be found in any one food, drink, pill or machine, but rather through commitment to healthy lifestyle behaviors, focused on maintainable and enjoyable eating practices and daily physical activity. As part of National Nutrition Month® 2015, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to "Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle" to return to the basics of healthful eating and active living. This year's theme encourages people to adopt a healthy lifestyle focused on making informed food choices, consuming fewer calories, and getting daily exercise.
Tips to bite into a healthy lifestyle:
Learn your needs. Age, gender, body type, family history, existing health conditions and daily routines all play a factor in determining which foods to eat more of and which ones to avoid. Knowing which foods contain the nutrients you need is the next step in biting into a healthy lifestyle.
Know the facts. When food selections go beyond whole foods and into packaged foods, the ingredient list and Nutrition Facts Panel can be useful tools to help make more informed choices. The higher an ingredient is on the list, the more of that ingredient is included compared to others. This is a good way to determine if a product is made with whole grains, or has a lot of added sugars. Regardless of nutrition claims on the front of the package, it's important to read the Nutrition Facts Panel to determine how many calories and how much fat, sugar and salt are in the package.
Plan your snacks. Keep a variety of tasty, nutritious, ready-to-eat foods nearby. This will help reduce the temptation to eat less healthy options from vending machines, convenience stores, or the break room. Healthy snack ideas include fresh fruit, air-popped popcorn, whole-wheat crackers, dried fruit and nut mixes, almonds and low-fat yogurt. Think of snacks as mini-meals to help you eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Remember to snack only when hungry, not out of boredom, stress, or frustration.
Regular physical activity is a must. Daily physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but unfortunately most don't include enough movement in daily routines. Regular physical activity strengthens bones and muscles, reduces the risk of chronic illness, and fosters overall well-being, which included stress relief, higher quality sleep and a more positive mental outlook.
Everyday ways to get moving. Physical activity is important for everyone at every age. The key is to find activities that are enjoyable and can easily be maintained. Here are some tips for everyday ways to get moving. Try using the buddy system, joining a walking group or attending fitness classes. Sign up for a 5k run/walk with friends or family. Sneak in exercise at your desk or buy a desk that allows you to stand while working. Take a short walk on your lunch break Walk up and down the stairs when the weather's bad. Finally, find a way to keep track of daily movement, such as keeping a journal, using a website, or try an activity tracking device.
For more information and resources on National Nutrition Month® from the Academy check out http://www.nationalnutritionmonth.org/nnm/.
Feel free to use/adapt Healthy Bites material (with credit) for your own articles, blogs, handouts, etc. An example credit line would be: Authored by or Adapted from Lisa Franzen-Castle, PhD, RD, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Nutrition Specialist. Healthy Bites Newsletter, March 2015, http://go.unl.edu/ppon.
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