Healthy Food Choices – One Piece of the Proactive Health Puzzle
Written by Rachel Braun, M.S., RDN, LD. Rachel is a Mayo Clinic registered dietitian.
Scan the headlines of any popular fitness magazine or online health blog and you are bound to see “proactive health”. Studies suggest that nearly two-thirds of Americans are making an effort to be proactive about their health. But what is the proactive health movement and how does eating well fit into this trend?
Proactive health movement is the public’s increased interest in making changes in lifestyle habits and choices to live well and prevent disease. Being proactive about your health can include changes in diet, exercise, sleep hygiene, dental health and muscle strength and flexibility.
Choosing a healthy diet is one piece to proactive health. The public is being exposed to more channels via the Internet and social media to learn about healthy foods and what that food can do for them. It is important to not get pulled into trendy or restrictive food habits, but rather consider food choices and habit changes that are backed by science.
Here are some tips for focusing on a proactive diet:
- Eating a balanced diet. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends consuming foods from multiple food groups, including whole grains, lean protein, fiber-rich whole fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy. Consider using the Plate Method, which divides up the plate to ensure appropriate portion sizes of different foods.
- Taking dietary supplements, when needed and recommended. Individual nutrient needs vary depending upon age and health conditions. Sometimes supplements are needed fill the gap when you are unable to meet need with diet. Always discuss supplements with your health care team.
- Eating food with added functional benefits. While the government has no legal definition for functional food, referring to the Nutrition Facts Label and ingredients list can help determine if a food is a healthful choice. Functional foods include minimally processed, whole foods. A few examples include antioxidant-rich berries, fatty, omega-3-rich fish like salmon, or unsalted, heart-healthy nuts.
- Supplementing diet with healthier foods. A good first step is as easy as increasing fruit and vegetable intake. You can start small. Adding just one serving (about one cup) per day is a great start.
- Eating nutrient-dense foods. This refers to items that contain high volumes of protein, vitamins, minerals, or fiber in a portion. Examples include broccoli (rich in fiber, antioxidants, and low calorie), oranges (high in fiber, vitamin C, and potassium), and blueberries (providing antioxidants and phytochemicals).
There are many pieces of the puzzle of proactive health to pursue. Healthy food choices for proactive health don’t need to be flashy, restrictive, or difficult to follow. When it comes to diet choose one piece to work on – like more fruits and veggies – and see how it “fits” into your life. What proactive changes have you made?