Americans are bombarded with information about "healthy eating," but we suffer from higher rates of obesity and chronic disease than ever before. In fact, obesity rates increased in 23 states last year and did not decline anywhere, according to a recent report published by the Trust for America's Health.
Four states reported their adult obesity rates at 30 percent or higher. In addition, 30 states reported their percentage of overweight or obese children at higher than 30 percent.
As a nation, we are increasingly eating more processed and fast foods. Our supermarkets are full of convenient packaged foods that appeal to our taste buds, but compromise our nutrition.
It is easy to fall into the pattern of eating fast, convenient, prepared food, but we are not nurturing ourselves by doing so. Our Standard American Diet lacks nutrients and relies heavily on processed foods. Our fast foods remove us from the pleasures of creating and savoring a wonderful meal, and our fast pace often prevents us from connecting over a good, slow meal. We tend to eat for convenience and speed, not health and pleasure.
These poor habits can lead to obesity, along with a number of other health conditions: heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, arthritis, and others.
How can I combat obesity?
Start by focusing on foods you should eat, rather than those you shouldn't eat.
"During the past few decades, the focus seems to have been on foods to avoid or 'good' food versus 'bad' food," says Carolyn Denton, Licensed Nutritionist, Abbot Northwestern's Institute for Health and Healing. "But what qualified as bad kept changing. First it was fats, then carbs. However, current research shows that what we fail to eat may impact our health more than eating 'bad' foods."
Along with this negative focus, we often experience a large gap between knowledge and action. We are all aware that fruits, vegetables and whole grains should be the major elements of our diet. We are also aware that diet alone is not as effective in achieving a healthy body weight as diet combined with exercise. However there is often a gap between our knowledge of what to do and our actually doing it.
How do we close this knowledge gap?
Here are the top 10 things you can do to close the gap.
- Eat a variety of foods.
- Increase fruits and vegetables.
- Choose whole grains.
- Include beneficial fats.
- Drink water.
- Include green tea.
- Control portions.
- Avoid trans-fatty acids.
- Avoid corn syrup and other artificial sweeteners.
- Limit processed foods.
Learn more about how to establish a healthy diet and what experts recommend.
Read more about the benefits of physical activity and fitness.
Resources for establishing healthier diet habits
On this website:
Food as Medicine
The Mediterranean Diet
Diet & Nutrition information, self-assessment and goal-setting tools
On other websites:
One Town Gets Children to Live a Healthy Lifestyle
Trust for America's Health "F as in Fat" report
American Dietetic Association
Weight-Control Information Network (WIN)
Diet & Nutrition resources: websites, books, articles and self-assessments
Kids Health: Cooking with Kids