Balancing Your Plate

Things to consider when trying to achieve a heathly diet.

The crowd quiets to a dull roar as the smoke clears, and a spotlight descends on a lone performer. The performer quickly curtseys and begins. They reach for a porcelain plate, perch its underside lip on a pole and begin whirling with increasing ferocity. Soon, the plate is spinning at high speeds, perfectly balanced on the end of the thin pole. Moving slowly with eyes above, the performer reaches for more: two plates for each hand! Three! Four! The crowd roars as the performer nearly loses their balance, anticipating the moment where the plates come careening down into a pile of rubble. Anxious, spectators perch on the edge of their seats to peer at the face of the performer. Lo and behold, a familiar face: it’s you!

Every day we attempt a plate-balancing act, albeit a bit different than the one described above: maintaining a healthy diet. Balancing our family’s plates with the right proteins, carbs, and veggies can feel like a daunting or even impossible task without proper practice.  Below are some considerations everyone should take when trying to maintain the proper balance, so we all don’t come crashing down into unhealthy lifestyles!

Portion and proportion

The food pyramid was created to understand healthy proportions of various food groups in a diet. Unfortunately, a pyramid isn’t the best shape for explaining ratios, so the food pyramid went through a few makeovers over the years. In its current incarnation, the food pyramid is known as MyPlate, a dinner plate-shaped guide to understanding a balanced diet. But the challenge doesn’t end there. You could eat a totally balanced diet with the proper ratios of carbs to protein to veggies, but if you stack your plate a mile high or eat too small a meal to satisfy your needs, the end result could still be unhealthy for you. You’ve got to remember both food group balance and overall intake to achieve a healthy diet.

For more information on Myplate, visit  https://www.choosemyplate.gov/

Think big picture

One bad meal is not going to undo all your hard work, and one good meal is not going to undo a whole day of unhealthy eating. Health is a cumulative experience. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Think of how your meals relate to each other. Looking back to the original plate-spinning analogy, you’ve got to think carefully and consider the other plates you’ve already got spinning before you grab another if you want to be successful.

Convenience

Convenience has been a constant hurdle in the lives of busy people trying to maintain a healthy diet. Now it’s different. There are a lot of good, convenient options at your local grocery store that just need to be microwaved, like minute brown rice or frozen veggies. Even some fast-food restaurants now have healthier options on the menu if you’re in a rush.

Every body is unique

Some healthy foods may not agree with your body. There is no true “one size fits all” diet, but there are some general guidelines like MyPlate. Your body is an engine, so try out different fuels to see what makes your body run best. Maybe the proteins you’re eating make you run slow and sluggish, try a plant-based protein and see if that gives you a few extra horsepower. If excess dairy makes your engine, uh, “backfire” too frequently, look for other options to find your calcium and vitamin D.

Framing your decisions

Look at healthy eating as what you’re choosing to eat, not what you can’t have. It may just seem like wordplay, but researchers have actually found that mental framing may be a factor in making healthy food decisions. The mind is more powerful than the body, and a healthy mind makes for a healthier body!

Understanding Diabetes and Common Risk Factors

Diabetes means there is a build-up of sugar, or glucose, in the blood stream. Glucose is the body’s primary source of fuel and is needed in all cells in order for all systems to work. Insulin is a hormone in the blood stream that works like a key to open cells to allow glucose to enter. If a person doesn’t make enough insulin, or if the body doesn’t use insulin correctly, the result will be high blood glucose, or diabetes. Understanding the different types of diabetes, the risk factors, and ways to reduce risk are important because if not controlled, diabetes can lead to serious complications such as heart disease, blindness, kidney disease and nerve damage.

 

 

The most common forms of diabetes are type 1, type 2 and gestational.

Type 1:

 

  1. Usually discovered soon after it develops due to a severe lack of insulin that happens in a short amount of time.
  2. Leads to symptoms such as extreme thirst, frequent urination, blurry vision and unintentional weight loss, which are usually severe enough to cause a person to see a doctor quickly.
  3. Treatment: taking insulin and learning to adjust your diet to keep the blood glucose levels in a safe range.

 

Gestational diabetes

 

  1. Develops during some pregnancies when pregnancy hormones interfere with how insulin works. Too much blood sugar in the mother can cause complications in the baby.
  2. There are usually no symptoms, so every woman should be screened during routine pre-natal care.
  3. Treatment: usually diet control, although some women need medication as well.

 

The most common type of diabetes is type 2, when blood sugar levels rise over time resulting from a lack of insulin or insulin not working correctly. Eventually, when the blood glucose level gets high enough, people may feel extra tired or may have vision changes. Unfortunately people who rarely see a doctor for routine lab work may go years having diabetes without even knowing it.

Risk Factors for type 2 diabetes

 

  1. Family History: having a blood relative with type 2 diabetes
  2. Ethnicities at greater risk: Hispanic, African American, Latino or Asian
  3. Being overweight
  4. A lack of physical exercise

 

While some risk factors such as family history or ethnicity can’t be changed, studies show that people who control their weight and are physically active can significantly reduce their chance of developing type 2 diabetes. In 2002, the Diabetes Prevention Program study concluded that people who were overweight and had slightly increased blood glucose levels sharply decreased their risk of developing type 2 diabetes after following a reduced fat diet and exercise program. The study participants who lost between 5 and 10% of their weight and were able to maintain 150 minutes per week of physical activity had their blood glucose level return to normal.

What should you do to reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes?

 

  1. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lower in fat – especially animal fat – and including moderate amounts of whole grains. The USDA Healthy Plate (myhealthyplate.gov) is a great tool to show how to balance food choices in a healthy way. You may also consider seeing a dietitian to help you plan a healthy diet.
  2. If you have any risk factors for type 2 diabetes, it’s is important to talk to your doctor about getting regular screenings. Because most people won’t have any specific symptoms right away, the only way to know if you have high blood sugar is with a simple blood test.
  3. Discuss your weight and physical activity with your doctor

 

Getting the Whole Grain Your Body Needs

September is National Whole Grain Month – perfect timing for planning healthy back-to-school meals and snacks.

Eating a diet rich in whole grain foods can decrease your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and digestive disorders. The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines 2010 recommend that adults eat at least 3 full servings of whole grains per day and that kids eat at least 2 to 3 servings. A full serving provides 16 grams of whole grain at a time.

 

 

Most people have heard of whole grains and know they are healthy but, in reality, the average American eats less than one full serving of whole grains per day. Many foods that look and sound healthy, such a “multi-grain” cereal or “high fiber” bread may in fact be refined grains. A grain, whether it’s wheat, corn, rye or barley to name just a few, has several layers called the germ, the endosperm and the bran. When the entire grain kernel is left in a product, it is considered a “whole” grain. When a grain is “refined,” the bran and the germ are removed, along with most of the fiber and about half of the other key nutrients. Some of the nutrients and fiber can be added back, which makes the food “fortified,” but the whole foods with the original nutrients intact are the foods that provide the most benefit. Consumers need to look for the words “100% whole grain” or the stamp of the Whole Grain Council on labels to be sure to get the best choices. The words “100% whole grain” mean that there are at least 16 grams (a full serving) of whole grain, while the Whole Grain Council stamp by itself means at least 8 grams (1/2 serving) of whole grain.

How can a person get all the whole grains they need? It’s as easy as starting the day with oatmeal or a slice of 100% whole wheat bread, having whole grain rye or wheat crackers with your soup or salad for lunch, and having whole wheat pasta or brown rice for dinner. Kids can enjoy a bowl of whole grain oat cereal for breakfast, a sandwich made with 100% whole wheat bread for lunch, and a snack of popcorn or half of a 100% whole grain English muffin with pizza sauce and a sprinkle of cheese for an afternoon snack.

The following list gives a few suggestions for full servings of whole grains. Try to get at least 3 servings per day.

 

  • 1/2 – 1 cup cooked oatmeal, quinoa, barley, brown rice or whole wheat pasta.
  • 1 serving of crackers such as Triscuit™ or Rye Krisp™.
  • 1 slice of 100% whole wheat bread, a 100% whole wheat mini bagel or a 100% whole wheat English muffin.
  • 3-4 cups of popcorn.