Build a healthy lifestyle

March 13, 2002|BY LYNN F. LITTLE

Eating is one of life's greatest pleasures and today, with such a wide variety of foods available in supermarkets and restaurants, there is much room for choice in what we eat. The 2000 Dietary Guidelines for Americans offer sensible guidelines to help you with these choices.

March is National Nutrition Month and a good time to refocus on dietary guidelines to help build a healthy lifestyle.

The three key messages in the 2000 Dietary Guidelines are to aim for fitness, build a better base and choose sensibly.

To help us remember these messages, the first letters in the messages come together to form ABC. These three messages also form the basic building blocks of creating a healthy lifestyle for you and your family.

The guidelines are intended for healthy children two-years-old or older and for healthy adults of any age. Behind each message are specific guidelines to help you live the message.


l Aim for fitness

This guideline focuses on aiming for a healthy weight and being physically active every day. A fit weight is key to a long, healthy life, and, like a long, healthy life, it is something we need to work on every day.

The newest Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that we engage in 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. The idea is that physical activity needs to become a regular part of our daily routine.

l Build a healthy base

This guideline focuses both on using the food guide pyramid as the basis for your eating pattern and on keeping foods safe to eat.

The food guide pyramid uses grains, especially whole grains, vegetables and fruits as the foundation of meals. Small amounts of lean meat, poultry and fish and low-fat dairy products are then used to round out meals.

Since foods within the same food group differ in their array of nutrients and other healthful substances, choosing a variety helps you get all the nutrients and fiber you need. It also can help keep your meals interesting from day to day.

The final message in building a healthy base is to keep foods safe by washing your hands often, keeping raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate, cooking food to proper temperatures and refrigerating foods promptly to below 40 degrees.

l Choose sensibly

The key messages in this guideline include limiting your use of solid fats and choosing fat-free and low-fat types of milk products, meats and poultry. Another recommendation is to eat cooked dry beans, peas and fish more often.

Limiting your intake of beverages and foods high in added sugars and salt is another part of choosing sensibly. The nutrition facts label is an excellent source of information on the fat, sugar, sodium and other nutrients found in foods.

Choosing sensibly also means that if you are an adult and choose to drink alcoholic beverages, that you do so sensibly. This means limiting your intake to no more than one drink a day if you are a woman and two drinks a day if you are a man, based on body size and metabolism differences between men and women.

For more details on the ABCs of eating well, go online to:

USDA Food and Nutrition Information Center


American Heart Association's Delicious Decisions

Lynn F. Little is a family & consumer sciences educator with the Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

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