By Adrianna Bradley
“If you want to make the move toward eating healthier, choose one or two things to change,” said Phyllis Allen, MS, RD, state director of Public Health Nutrition. “Don’t instantly try to change everything you eat. When you make too many changes it will make it harder to stick with new habits.”
With this year’s theme, “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” DHEC is continuing its efforts in our communities teaching various age groups the importance of eating a well-balanced meal and living a more active lifestyle.
Healthy eating can help you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, and reduce the risk for a number of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. DHEC is actively working to decrease the number of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease with programs like Cooking Matters. The program teaches adults how to prepare and shop for healthy meals on a limited budget. Currently, the economic cost of obesity in South Carolina is an estimated $8.5 billion per year and growing.
“Parents are important role models for their children,” Allen said. “Set a good example by eating healthy and your children will eat healthy too.”
Tips to help develop better habits
Here are some tips to help you develop sound eating and physical activity habits. Remember, making small changes in your food choices can lead to better health.
- Eat breakfast: Start your morning with a healthy breakfast that includes lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables: Fruits and veggies add color, flavor, and texture plus vitamins, minerals, and fiber to your plate. Make 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables your daily goal. Experiment with different types, including fresh, frozen and canned.
- Watch portion sizes: Get out the measuring cups and see how close your portions are to the recommended serving size.
- Be active: Start by doing what exercise you can for at least 10 minutes at a time. Children and teens should get 60 or more minutes of physical activity per day, and adults should get two hours and 30 minutes per week.
- Fix healthy snacks: Healthy snacks can sustain your energy levels between meals, especially when they include a combination of foods.
- Get to know food labels: Reading the Nutrition Facts panel can help you eat or drink smarter.
- Get cooking: Preparing foods at home can be healthy, rewarding and cost-effective. Resolve to learn some cooking and kitchen basics.
- Dine out without ditching your goals: Plan ahead, ask questions and choose foods carefully. Compare nutrition information, if available, and look for healthier options that are grilled, baked, broiled or steamed.
- Drink more water: Quench your thirst by drinking water instead of sugary drinks.
- Cut back on added sugars: Foods and drinks with added sugars equal empty calories and little or no nutrition. Reviewing ingredients on the food label helps identify sources of added sugar.