March is National Nutrition Month and quite fittingly I just finished a three week course on Nutrition. The course was very basic and laid out the fundamentals of nutrition. Some highlights:
Carbs are not bad. Recently there have been several diets that have led us to believe that foods high in carbohydrates are bad for us. I would agree that we as a society eat too many processed carbohydrates. Carbs also include fruits, vegetables and whole grains - all great for us. And we all know we need to eat more of those.
The Food Pyramid. The newer version of the food pyramid, although more complex, is a good model for structuring our eating guidelines. The website www.mypyramid.gov is a great resource for creating meal plans, tips and recipes. I also learned about the Dash Eating Plan in my classes. I had not previously heard about it and have not had time to look into it, but for more information visit www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new_dash.pdf . It is a low sodium diet designed for those with high blood pressure, but everyone can apply its principles and guidelines.
Read the labels. Eating well really starts with reading the labels. Look past the nutriton fact sheets and read the ingredient list. Avoid items with hydrogenated oil, partially hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup. Other pitfalls are high sugar, high sodium and other highly processed items. Try to look for ingredients lists that are whole foods. For a good resource for reading the label, visit http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/foodlab.html.
Drink lots of water. A good rule of thumb is half your body weight in ounces each day. Many foods contain water (like fruit and broths) so you don't necessarily need to drink it all in water. Did you know that if you normally drink one regular soft drink each day and cut them from your diet, you could lose 14 lbs / year?
I think we all know what we are supposed to do, or at a minimum a few things we could be doing differently. The key is persistence. Start small and make changes when you can. If we do well most of the time, we can still splurge on the good stuff.
Visit http://www.eatright.org/cps/rde/xchg/ada/hs.xsl/nutrition_350_ENU_HTML.htm for some great links with additional information.