Richland Center, WI – Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, among the other top 10 leading causes of death — stroke, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s. All of these diseases can be linked to what one eats. Unfortunately, eating habits are typically not changed until after a diagnosis is made.
This year’s National Nutrition Month theme is “Fueling for the Future,” highlighting how important it is to eat with a purpose – good health. Fueling correctly can help prevent or delay the onset of disease and can minimize complications that come with the disease.
In order to fuel for future health, plan meals that include a balance of the different food groups. What does well-balanced eating look like? It looks like MyPlate (myplate.gov). This is a tool used to show balanced eating for a healthful diet, and replaces the historical food pyramid. MyPlate includes all of the food groups needed for a healthful, balanced diet. There are no restrictions as to what food item counts for each food group; it is just important to pick from all food groups when creating a meal.
Here are the guidelines to MyPlate:
- One-fourth of the plate should be a protein. Protein helps the body repair and make cells, as well as maintaining muscle strength. It can be from a plant source such as beans, tofu, nuts, seeds, etc., or from animal sources such as chicken, beef, pork, turkey, etc. To help further protect health, choose lean proteins such as leaner cuts of beef (less fat/marbling), lower-fat ground beef, white meat of chicken or turkey, seafood, fish, venison, and plant sources of protein. Choosing leaner proteins can help lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart attack or stroke.
- One-fourth of the plate should be a grain/starch option. Fill this portion of the plate with rice, noodles, a roll, slice of bread, potato, etc. Grains and starches are carbohydrates that provide the body with nutrients needed to work properly – one of them being sugar. Sugar is fuel for cells to function properly; for example, the brain uses it to think and reason. When it comes to grains, focus on whole grains for at least half of the choices. It is important to note that the carbohydrate section (grains/starches) is only one-fourth of the plate as this will help to help ward off or slow progression of diabetes.
- The other half of the plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables provide numerous vitamins and minerals needed for our bodies to function, as well as fiber. Fiber is a great nutrient that helps people “stay regular,” stabilize blood sugars, become full more quickly, and lower cholesterol. Fruits and vegetables of all colors should be considered, for each color has different health benefits. When choosing options, consider taste/texture preferences and those foods that are seasonal – or include frozen and canned options – to fit budgets.
- Lastly, try to include three servings of dairy a day. Dairy provides calcium and vitamin D (if vitamin D-fortified) that are necessary for bone health. Dairy does not have to be consumed at each meal, but can also be used as snacks between meals. For added health, choose the lower-fat dairy products such as skim or 1%. If people cannot tolerate dairy or are allergic, there are available dairy alternatives.
Ultimately, balanced eating includes all the food groups and takes into consideration personal preferences, budget, convenience, culture, and health focus. Make sure to choose pleasing options based on personal taste!
Anyone who needs help with nutrition, feel free to reach out to The Richland Hospital and Clinics’ nutrition team at 608.647.6321.