Wednesday, April 9, 2014

March is National Nutrition Month

Blog contributed by Tina Metropoulos, DO, Primary Care Physician

In primary care, we often counsel patients about healthy dietary habits. 
I’m frequently asked about what foods are healthy.  Another common question is whether a fad diet is safe, effective, or advisable – “How about Atkins?”, “Is South Beach okay?”, and should I go “Paleo?". Sometimes the goal is weight loss, and sometimes it is to improve lifestyle. Specifically, patients are often concerned about their heart health and providers often discuss diet as a means to reduce risk for heart disease.

Recently, the American Heart Association updated their healthy nutrition guidelines.  I read through them, after their release in 12/2013.  The overall focus is on a balanced, moderate, diet with limited processed food intake.  An important recommendation is to have a diet rich in fruits and vegetable – with an average of 9-10 servings a day for an adult.  There are other guidelines and diets which focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, such as the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet.  This may seem as hard as climbing Mt. Everest, especially if you count an occasional side salad as your token veggie for the week.  However, I try to help patients realize how easy it can be to include healthful, and flavorful, fruits and vegetables in their daily meals.

First, it’s important to understand how much “a serving” is.  A serving of fresh fruit is equal to 1 medium fruit, ½ cup cooked, chopped, or canned fruit, ¼ cup dried, or ½ cup juice (easy to get when you add some dried cranberries to some mixed nuts!).  A serving of fresh or cooked vegetables is roughly ½ cup; vegetable juice is ½ cup, while 1 cup constitutes a serving of raw leafy greens.

So, if you chop up some tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers in your lunchtime green salad (or if you are feeling adventurous, some artichokes or asparagus), you’d have at least 3 servings to put toward your daily quota.  Add some sliced berries to your AM bowl of Wheaties and you have another serving.  Snack on hummus and carrot or celery sticks (much better for your afternoon slump than a double mocha) and you’ve added another serving or two – more than half-way there!  And, we haven’t even counted dinner yet.

Now that spring is in full swing we will soon have an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables available!  By visiting your local farmer’s market or grocery store you can stock up on colorful, visually appealing, and delicious produce.  Eat up!

What is a serving size?

Recipe Ideas:



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