Disability Connection Newsletter — March 2016
10 Things to Know about Nutrition
- What Is Nutrition? You may have heard the phrase, “you are what you eat.” The food choices you make every day affect your health today and tomorrow. Healthy eating helps you maintain a good weight, gives you the right nutrients and improves quality and length of life. Unhealthy eating habits can contribute to health problems such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and more. Parents should instill good eating habits in their children, which often carry over into adulthood. For adults, it’s never too late to make changes to live a healthy life. The key to healthy eating is to eat a variety of foods, remember your fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water and limit sugar, salt and certain kinds of fat. You’ll want to take your own personal health into consideration when planning how you eat. For personal nutrition advice, talk to your doctor or a registered dietician.
- Celebrate National Nutrition Month (NMM) this month, a campaign of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that focuses on eating right. Healthy eating is important all year-round, so take some time to learn about good nutritional habits. Read these 16 Health Tips for 2016 to get a jumpstart on the path to a healthy lifestyle. For more detailed information, watch an informational video on topics such as eating well or working with a registered dietitian. Or, choose a book on topics such as sports nutrition or eating healthy with diabetes from this Good Nutrition Reading List. Satisfy any appetite with information and recipes to plan and prepare healthy meals. Be sure to learn about the vitamins a body needs to thrive, and how to get them. And remember, learning about healthy eating can be fun! Enjoy some nutrition-themed activities in honor of NMM with this secret message decoding game, or print out a coloring page and decorate a rainbow of healthy foods! Get engaged on social media and show your support for NMM.
- Eat Right for Physical and Mental Health. Almost everyone knows that what you eat can impact your physical health, but did you know your diet can affect your mental health, too? Research shows that a diet consisting mostly of fried, processed or sugary foods significantly increases the risk of developing depression. Avoidingexcess sugar and foods that have little nutritional value can help lessen the symptoms of depression andanxiety. Eating healthy is good for your heart as well as your mind. Steer clear of trans fats, found in fast food, and replace them with heart-healthy unsaturated fats from plant and fish oils. Remember to limit yoursodium intake to less than 1,500 milligrams a day. This is particularly important for middle-aged and older people and those with high blood pressure. Many processed foods like frozen dinners and canned soups have a high sodium content, so be sure to check the nutritional label on the package. Eating right is important at any age, but especially for older adults. Learn how to choose healthy meals as you age.
- Make Exercise a Part of Your Plan. Nutrition and physical activity go hand in hand for a healthy lifestyle. Without proper diet, your body doesn’t have the fuel to get moving. Before beginning an exercise routine, talk to a doctor or other health professional. Let’s Move! pairs exercise goals with healthy eating goals for people of all ages. The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) emphasizes the idea that “exercise is for EVERY body,” and provides information on safe exercise habits for people with disabilities. Read these quick tips on how to stay active with a physical disability, and for more in-depth guidance, read NCHPAD’sExercise Guidelines for People with Disabilities. Exercise is often necessary as a form of physical therapy, but it can also be a fun activity. Fitness instructors can adapt physical activity to accommodate people with disabilities. Use the Directory of Organizations for Athletes with Disabilities from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation to get started and find information about many different types of adaptive sports programs.
- Be a Smart Grocery Shopper. Plan ahead before a trip to the grocery store: create a shopping list and consider your budget. Look up nutrition information for items on your list with Food-A-Pedia to make sure you’re including healthy choices. While shopping, carefully read the nutrition labels on food items to make the best purchases. This Quick Guide to Food Label Terms from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics explains commons words found on food packages, such as “low calorie” and “low sodium.” Other words, like “natural” or “organic,” may be used – this guide to understanding food marketing terms explains what these terms mean. Kids can learn how to understand food labels and help with the shopping, too. As you put away your groceries, enter each item in the FoodKeeper app to know how long it will last and avoid food waste. Before eating, check the nutrition label to determine the proper serving size and know the difference between a serving size, which is the amount of food that should be eaten, and a portion size, which is the amount of food that is actually eaten.
- Use Food Assistance Programs. For many Americans, including those with disabilities, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides essential assistance to feed their families. Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, SNAP provides a monthly benefit based on eligibility requirements, including the number of people in the household and income. Benefits are typically distributed through individual EBT cardsand funds are automatically added to the card each month. SNAP clients can access benefits on their cards each month on a date that is determined by their case number and their state. To learn whether or not you are eligible to receive SNAP benefits, use this online pre-screening tool. In addition to SNAP, low-income women may be eligible to receive benefits through the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program. WIC provides supplemental foods, healthcare referrals, nutrition education, and breastfeeding promotion and support to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.
- Choose My Plate Teaches Portion Control. Making simple, healthy changes to your diet has never been easier. When you go to fill your plate for meals, make sure you have variety and use moderation. Choose My Plateshows what a healthy plate should look like: mostly fruits and vegetables with small portions of proteins and grains and a serving of dairy. Though geared towards parents, this breakdown of the Choose My Plate graphiccan help people of all ages determine what a healthy plate looks like. Protein choices should include a mix of lean meats, chicken, soy products, nuts and seeds and eggs. Aim to make half of the grains you consume whole grains, such as oatmeal or brown rice. Dairy should also be incorporated in to meals in the form of fat-free or soy-based milk or yogurt. Aim to limit consumption of sodium, saturated fat and additional sugars. Turn healthy eating into a game this March and take the MyPlate, MyWins Challenge with your friends, family or coworkers.
- Keep Kids Healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children with disabilities are 38 percent more likely to be obese than those without disabilities. Different types of disabilities present different types of challenges when it comes to healthy eating. For example, children with autism may be on special diets or have aversions to foods with certain colors or textures. And children and teens with Down syndrome may have difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. AbilityPath offers a guide called “Finding Balance: Obesity & Children with Disabilities” that outlines steps parents can take to help kids with disabilities eat well and exercise. Put creativity in the kitchen with the 2016 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and design a healthy, original recipe. Remember that eating well and physical activity go together for a healthy lifestyle. The I Can Do It, You Can Do It! campaign offers tips about physical fitness and good nutrition. Find more tips on exercise and nutrition for families, kids and teens on KidsHealth.org.
- Mix Up Your Meals. The age-old question of “what’s for dinner?” need not be met with despair. These days, no matter what your palate or diet may be, there are many resources to help you plan healthy and delicious meals. A great place to start is the What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl, which includes a large database of recipes that can be searched for by ingredients, equipment you will need, dietary requirements and more. SNAP also has many menu planning and recipe resources for clients who shop with those benefits. A great way to incorporate fruits and vegetables on a budget is to purchase those items when they are in season. SNAP-Ed Connection hascomplete seasonal produce guide with links to recipes. gov has many nutritional resources on choosing wisely, portion sizes, and many healthy recipes. For parents with kids at home, Choose My Plate has many healthy guidelines and kid-friendly recipes. Get kids in the kitchen and cooking with you with tips from the California Department of Public Health’s Power Play Guide.
- Know Special Dietary Considerations. Millions of Americans live with food allergies or sensitivities. These can range from mild and inconvenient to severe and even life-threatening. Since there is no cure for allergies, the best possible way to avoid complications is to avoid foods that cause an allergic reaction. Food allergies generally develop early in life but can develop at any age. In infants and children, the most common foods that cause allergic reactions are eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts), soy and wheat. In adults, the most common foods that cause allergic reactions are shellfish such as shrimp, crayfish, lobster and crab and fish such as salmon. People with Celiac disease have an immune response to eating gluten that damages their small intestine. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, but gluten can be found in some surprising food products. Treat Celiac disease by talking to your doctor and following a gluten-free diet, which requires checking food labels and managing your diet.
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