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March is National Nutrition Month

National Nutrition Month: Are you eating right?

March is National Nutrition Month, the perfect time to ask the question: Am I eating right? Chances are, you’re not or at least not as well as you could be. A healthy diet can prevent excessive weight gain and chronic disease.

Weight gain in adulthood is often gradual, about a pound a year, too slow of a gain for most people to notice. However, there’s increasing evidence that the same healthful food choices and diet patterns that help prevent heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions may also help to prevent weight gain. Those healthy choices include:

  • Choosing minimally processed foods like whole grains, vegetables, fruits and nuts; healthful sources of protein (fish, poultry, beans); and plant oils.
  • Limiting sugared beverages, refined grains, potatoes, red and processed meats, along with other highly processed foods, such as fast food.

Although the contribution of any one diet change to weight control may be small, together, the changes could add up to a considerable effect over time. 

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of March 2020, the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. was 41.9% with severe obesity’s prevalence up to nearly one in 10 Americans. A number of different factors can contribute to a person being obese, including family history and environment. Obesity isn’t a character flaw, consequence of poor willpower or anyone’s fault. It’s a common, serious and costly chronic disease affecting adults and children.

Obesity occurs when the body stores too much fat. Weight that’s higher than what’s considered healthy for a given height is described as overweight or obese. Obesity has traditionally been defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. The BMI is a ratio of your weight to height that is not affected by age, gender or race. To determine your own BMI, divide your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters or simply find your height and weight (in inches and pounds) in this chart:

  • If your BMI is less than 18.5, it falls within the underweight range.
  • If your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, it falls within the healthy weight range.
  • If your BMI is 25.0 to 29.9, it falls within the overweight range.
  • If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the obesity range.

“Start small”, advises Sarah Pittman, registered dietitian, health coach and care coordinator for Health AllianceTM. “Try not to make a lot of diet or exercise goals all at once. It can become overwhelming and unsustainable to change too many habits at one time. Choose one or two diet changes you want to focus on and make those a habit before adding on more changes.”

Her fellow registered dietitian and Health Alliance health coach, Elizabeth Benson, recommends first having a conversation with your doctor as “some health conditions may come with specific dietary recommendations.”

For more information on nutrition tips, read here.

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