Eating well can extend disease-free years, improve quality of life

By Nikki Flynn, RDN, MPH ProMedica Physicians Weight Management

        Nutrition is a very important modifiable factor in chronic disease prevention. Factors such as family history and age cannot be changed, but our food choices may increase or decrease our risk of acquiring certain chronic diseases like heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
        Good nutrition habits can help people extend their number of disease-free years, improving quality of life as we age.
        According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than one in 10 children and adults eat the recommended daily amount of vegetables, and only four in 10 children and one in seven adults eat enough fruit.
        Improving your personal nutrition may seem daunting, but even small changes over time can greatly improve your eating habits. It is important to note that everyone has differing nutritional needs, and understanding what your body needs based on personal health goals can be a good place to start.
        For example, athletes may want to increase their hydration to maximize performance and recovery; patients with a history of high blood pressure may want to reduce their sodium intake or increase their fruit and vegetables; others may be interested in reducing their carbon footprint so they might want to make changes towards plant-based eating. By identifying personal goals, it will be easier to make nutrition changes in a slow, steady manner.
        Another good place to start is by learning how to read nutrition labels. Nutrition labels provide a lot of information regarding food choices to help you meet your health and nutrition goals. Beyond calories, nutrition labels inform towards goals such as eating enough fiber or limiting sodium intake.
        The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans resource emphasizes the importance of a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk products and protein sources. The USDA MyPlate Plan is a good resource for identifying how much of each food group should be consumed.
        If you are interested in making changes to improve your eating habits, ask your doctor about speaking with a registered dietitian, who can help you formulate a plan to execute your goals and provide support and encouragement along the way.


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