Karen Ensle Ed.D., RD, FADA, CFCS Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County
Benefits of Eating Well - Eating well is vital for people at all ages. Whatever your age, daily food choices can make an important difference in your health and how you look and feel. Eating a well -planned, balanced mix of foods every day has many health benefits. For instance, eating well may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, some kinds of cancer, and anemia. If you already have one or more of these chronic diseases, eating well and being physically active may help you better manage them. Healthy eating may also help you reduce high blood pressure and lower high cholesterol. Eating Well Provides Essential Nutrients - The essential nutrients needed to keep your muscles, bones, organs, and other parts of your body healthy throughout your life include vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fats, and water. Eating Well Promotes Energy - Eating well helps to keep your energy level high. Consuming sufficient calories each day is important for overall well -being. The number of calories needed depends on how old you are, whether you're a man or woman, your height and weight, and how active you are. Food Choices Can Affect Weight - Consuming the right number of calories for your level of physical activity helps you control your weight. Extra weight is a concern for older adults because it can increase the risk for diseases such as metabolic syndrome and can increase joint problems. Eating more calories than your body needs for your activity level will lead to extra pounds. Exercising Daily is Essential - If you become less physically active as you age, you will probably need fewer calories to stay at the same weight. Choosing mostly nutrient -dense foods which have a lot of nutrients but relatively few calories will provide the nutrition you need while keeping down calorie intake. Drinking Water and Food Choices Affect Digestion - Food choices also affect digestion. For instance, not getting enough fiber or fluids may cause constipation. Eating more whole -grain foods with fiber and fruits and vegetables, or drinking more water will relieve constipation. Removing the Salt Shaker From Your Table - Decreasing salt intake slowly will allow the body to adjust to the taste of less salty foods. Eliminate cooking with salt and purchase foods with a lowered amount of salt. Reading food labels on soups, dressings, and other canned, packaged and pre -prepared foods will allow you to choose healthier options. Lowering sodium intake will improve your blood pressure and cardiovascular health. Switching to Whole -Grain Bread, Seafood, Vegetables and Fruits When Shopping - These changes may be easier than you think. They are possible even if you need help with shopping or cooking, or if you have a limited budget. Consuming More Veggies and Seafood Weekly - Remember to include at least 2 1/2 cups of veggies (raw and cooked) each day along with 2 cups of fruit. Stick to fresh fruit, frozen fruit, or fruit canned in fruit juice -NOT sugar syrup. Consume fish at least twice a week (NOT fried!). Checking with Your Doctor - If you have a specific medical condition, be sure to check with your doctor or registered dietitian about foods you should include or avoid. Make One Small Change at a Time - Eating well isn't just a "diet" or "program" that's here today and gone tomorrow. It is part of a healthy lifestyle that you can adopt now and stay with in the years to come. To eat healthier during the new year, begin by taking small steps, making one change at a time.