ISHPEMING - Between magazine covers screaming about the latest diet to information we hear from television, friends and family, food and eating healthy can seem complicated. To be healthy do you avoid carbohydrates? Fats? Can you trust the health claims on packaged items?
"People can change drastically in a short period of time," said Patricia Smith, a corporate/community dietitian at Marquette General Hospital. Smith was the nutritional speaker for the first meeting of the Ishpeming team for The Mining Journal's Healthy Weight Journal.
Starting out the 12-week community wellness challenge, which encourages participants to exercise and eat more fruits and vegetables, was nutritional information on how to establish a healthier diet.
Marquette General Hospital dietitian Patricia Smith discusses serving sizes of fruits and vegetables at the Ishpeming meeting of the Healthy Weight Journal Community Wellness Challenege last week. People wanting to adopt a healthier diet should aim for five one-cup servings of fruit or vegetables, like pineapple, broccoli and blueberries, per day. (Journal photos by Johanna Boyle)
"Balance is my favorite word," Smith said. "Don't try to eliminate carbs. Don't try to eliminate fats.
"A lot of people start out dieting by cutting back, by depriving themselves."
As Smith told the meeting, it's about eating more of the good things rather than cutting out everything that could be considered bad.
"It's easy to get in your fruits and vegetables if you try," Smith said. "Pick your favorite vegetables... What really works is to increase the good foods."
By packing fruits and vegetables into your day as possible, you'll feel full while consuming more nutrients and fewer calories, she said.
The Healthy Weight Journal encourages participants to track the number of fruits and vegetables they eat each day, aiming for five or more servings - a cup of cut up fruits or vegetables or a whole piece the size of a small fist.
A replacement for the food pyramid, the federal government recently released Choose My Plate, a diagram showing a divided plate which helps diners visualize how much room on their plates should be devoted to fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.
"You need carbs, especially if you're going to work out," Smith said. "You need fats."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion provides ten tips for people who want to get started on building healthier eating habits:
1. Find out how many calories you need in a day. Visit www.choosemyplate.gov/tools and click on Daily Food Plan for guidelines on how many calories you need or talk to your doctor.
2. Enjoy your food, but eat less. Take your time to eat, pay attention to hunger or fullness cues, eat what you enjoy, but in smaller portions.
3. Avoid oversized portions. Use smaller plates, bowls and glasses. Measure out a serving of whatever you are eating instead of just sitting down with an open bag.
4. Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains and reduced or non-fat dairy products for more nutrients and fiber.
5. Make half your plate for each meal fruits and vegetables. Aim for colorful or dark green vegetables for more nutrients.
6. Switch to fat-free or low-fat dairy products for the same amount of calcium and other nutrients but with fewer calories and saturated fat.
7. Eat whole grains. Start by making half of the grains you eat whole grains (whole wheat bread instead of white). Whole grains contain more fiber and nutrients than refined grains.
8. Eat fewer solid fats, added sugars and sodium, as are found in cookies, cakes, ice cream, candy, sweetened beverages and fatty meats. Make those foods occasional treats, not everyday meals.
9. Read nutrition labels on processed foods to help cut back on sodium.
10. Drink water. Pop, energy drinks and sports drinks are a major source of added sugar and calories in the typical American diet. If plain water is a bit too plain, try adding a slice of lemon or lime to change the flavor.
But if you're looking for one thing to start with, Smith suggested going with the fruits and vegetables.
"If anybody can increase their intake of fruits and vegetables, that's critical," she said.
To join the community wellness challenge, sign up at www.fitup.org.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.