The Walk Kansas program is over for another year. 298 Bourbon County residents have been on a mission for the past eight weeks to make some healthy lifestyle changes by being more physically active and increasing fruits and vegetables in their diets.
Most of us need about five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. That means that when we sit down to a meal, our plate should be almost half filled with fruits and vegetables, one-third with grains, a small serving of the meat and bean group, and just a sliver of sweets or dessert. A serving of milk or other dairy food should also be included.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, physical inactivity and unhealthy eating contribute to obesity and a number of chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis-related disabilities, and some cancers.
Dieting and eating healthy are not the same. Healthy eating is less about strict rules, strange food combinations, and continued deprivation. Healthy eating is more about changing ways of thinking about food, and learning to make informed choices.
The United States Department of Agriculture has developed the MyPyramid as a tool to guide more informed food selections and physical activity. At www.MyPyramid.gov interactive technology helps users determine the number of daily calories that are best for them. MyPyramid also helps users learn to choose the foods that supply the balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats needed daily to be healthy.
Most people who are successful at losing weight and keeping it off, or at maintaining a healthy weight, don't try to eliminate their favorite foods. A meal plan for long-term use will include foods you like to eat. Learn to choose foods sensibly by looking at the big picture. When consumed occasionally, and in the appropriate portion size, all foods can fit into a healthful eating plan.
For example, if ice cream is a "must have," look for ways to fit it in occasionally. Read the Nutrition Facts label to help you make a better choice. Frozen yogurt may have as little as 120 calories and four grams of fat per 1/2 cup, versus an ice cream with 270 calories and 11 grams of fat or more. If a 1/2 cup serving seems too small, try blending it with a fresh peach or half a banana and a little skim milk to create a frothy treat with extra nutrients and no extra fat. Or, serve yourself in a small dish so the half cup portion fills the dish, sit down to eat, and savor every bite.
Food likes and dislikes are often a learned response and can be changed if we choose to do so. For instance, if you prefer whole milk, try drinking two percent. Research shows that taste perceptions begin to change toward lower-fat varieties after a few months. So, it's not going to be deprivation for the rest of your life. It's going to be dedication for a few months, and then your tastes will actually begin to change. Once you're accustomed to the taste of two percent milk, you can begin to switch to one percent milk.
Rather than going hungry, wiser food choices call for eating three nutritious meals each day along with healthy snacks. It's about balancing physical activity with eating nutrient-rich foods, which are higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals and lower in fat and sugar. Nutrient-rich foods offer more nutrition per calorie and help us feel full with lower calorie intake. Spending your calorie allowances on food choices that offer the most nutrients per calorie is a wise choice. It's like shopping for a bargain!