Eating right is essential to keeping your body running at its best. March is National Nutrition Month®, and this year’s theme encourages you to build an eating plan with your unique lifestyle and nutritional needs in mind. So whether you are a student, a busy parent, a business owner or a retiree, it’s important to “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day”. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and your VA dietitians and dietetic technicians are resources for YOU to use to improve your health with each day’s food choices.
In addition to your age, background and current responsibilities, your food budget and cooking ability also impact daily meal choices. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans calls a healthy eating plan “an array of options that can accommodate cultural, ethnic, traditional and personal preferences and food cost and availability”. Some great tools to visualize a better meal can be found here.
If you have a chronic condition such as hypertension, diabetes or obesity, an improved eating plan can have a significant impact on managing your symptoms and feeling healthier overall. To help manage high blood pressure: balance calories with physical activity to manage weight; increase the variety of fruits/vegetables/whole grains/low-fat dairy products; and consume fewer foods high in sodium, saturated fats or trans fats. The DASH diet summarizes a lot of these guidelines.
To help manage diabetes: eat meals and snacks at regularly scheduled times; keep carbohydrates in your meals as consistent as possible and track them to insure that your blood sugar stays in good control. To help manage obesity: establish a new balance between calories consumed and calories burned through physical activity; watch portion sizes to help manage calorie intake and cut back on empty calories from added sugar.
Of course, these suggestions are very general. So how can you best personalize all of this advice to improve your health? Your VA dietitians have classes and individualized appointments available to assist you with an eating plan that fits your body, your schedule and your budget. Consider making the first step to “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day” by checking out the nutrition classes and visits available at your VA center or outpatient clinic. More information about VA nutrition services can also be found here.
Anne Koth is a clinical dietitian at Zablocki VAMC in Milwaukee and a Veteran of the US Navy Reserve.