Nutrition for Improving Your Health

— Written By Lethia Lee and last updated by Patricia Burch
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Good nutrition is one of the keys to a healthy life. You can improve your health by keeping a balanced diet. You should eat foods that contain vitamins and minerals. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and a source of protein. Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer yes to any of them, talk to your doctor about your health. You may need to improve your eating habits for better nutrition.

Do you have a problem or risk factor, such as high blood pressure, or high cholesterol? Did your doctor tell you that you can improve your condition with better nutrition? Do diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or osteoporosis run in your family? Are you overweight? Do you have a question about what foods you should eat or whether you should take vitamins? Do you think you would benefit from seeing a registered dietitian or someone who specializes in nutrition counseling?

It can be hard to change your eating habits to get on a path for improved health. It helps if you focus on small changes. Making changes to your diet may also be beneficial if you have diseases that can be made worse by things you are eating or drinking. Symptoms from conditions such as kidney disease, lactose intolerance, and celiac disease can all benefit from changes in your diet. Find the strong and weak points in your current diet. Do you eat 4-5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day. Do you get enough calcium? Do you eat whole grain, and high-fiber foods, if so you’re on the right track? Keep it up. If not, add more of these foods to your daily diet. Keep track of your food intake by writing down what you eat and drink every day. This record will help you assess your diet. You’ll see if you need to eat more or less from certain food groups.

Almost everyone can benefit from cutting back on unhealthy fat. If you currently eat a lot of fat, commit to cutting back and changing your habits. Unhealthy fats include things such as dark chicken meat, poultry skin, fatty cuts of pork, beef, lamb, high-fat dairy foods, whole milk, butter, and cheese. Ways to cut back on unhealthy fats include: rather than frying meat, bake grill or broil it. Take off the skin before cooking chicken or turkey. Try eating fish at least once a week. Reduce any extra fat. This includes butter or bread, sour cream on baked potatoes, and salad dressings. Use low-fat or non-fat versions of these foods. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables with your meals and snacks. Read the nutrition labels on foods before you buy them. If you need help with the labels, talk with your doctor or a nutrition education person. When you eat out, be aware of hidden fats and larger portion sizes. Staying hydrated is important for good health. Drink zero or low-calorie beverages, such as water or unsweet tea. Sweetened drinks add lots of sugar and calories to your diet. This includes fruit soda, sports and energy drinks, sweetened or flavored milk, and sweetened iced tea.

Consider this:
Balanced nutrition and regular exercise are good for your health. These habits can help you lose or maintain weight. Try to set realistic goals. Remember secret diets aren’t the answer. Fad or short-term diets may promise to help you lose weight fast; however, they are hard to keep up with and could be unhealthy. Good nutrition doesn’t come in a pill bottle. Try eating your way to a healthy life style.

For more information on nutrition contact Lethia Lee with the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Office. 910-592-7161