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Healthy choices versus avoidance can create a nutritious diet

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[September 01, 2009]  Eating a well-balanced diet isn't just for those looking to drop a few pounds. Making the right food choices can help prevent an array of diseases.

Restaurant"If we do not feed our bodies good fuel, we will not be able to optimally protect them," says Jennifer DiPasquale, registered dietitian at Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital. "Our immune system is under constant attack from pollutants, carcinogens, contaminants, bacteria and viruses. In general, poorly fed people tend to be sicker. "

Diet has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and throat, stomach, intestine and bowel issues, among other problems. Nutrition advice is starting to catch up with that message.

To mark National Nutrition Awareness Month, the HOPE Mobile will offer handouts on nutritional information, including portion sizes and making better choices while eating out. It will also provide food diaries and instructions on how to use them. The HOPE Mobile's monthly schedule is available at www.healthycommunitiespartnership.org

For decades, nutrition advice has focused on what foods to avoid, leading Americans to be overweight but undernourished, according to the American Dietetic Association. Today the emphasis has become the total nutrient package instead of just focusing on the saturated fat, sugar and salt content of choices.

The ADA says nutrient-rich foods are familiar, easy to find and represent the basic five food groups:

  • Brightly colored fruits -- preferred over 100 percent fruit juice.

  • Vibrantly colored vegetables and potatoes.

  • Whole, fortified and fiber-rich grain foods.

  • Low-fat and fat-free milk, cheese and yogurt.

  • Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts.

"Almost everyone underestimates the amount of food eaten," DiPasquale says. "Media and marketing have led us to believe that large and even huge portions of high-calorie and high unhealthy fat foods are normal and acceptable. We need to retrain our brains, get out the measuring cups and look at serving sizes according to healthy guidelines."

She also says to compare packaging with labels, as some packages appear to be a single serving but are not.

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It's also OK, DiPasquale says, to question how a dish is prepared when eating out. "Surprisingly, a red pasta sauce made with an oil base can have as many if not more calories than a white flour base sauce, she said. Same thing goes for steamed broccoli drenched in garlic butter versus a small baked potato or other starchy vegetable. "

A few tips that you can start using today, according to DiPasquale and the American Dietetic Association:

  • Calorie counting can still be very useful for most people.

  • Snack on canned fruit in water or light syrup, raw carrots, whole wheat bread with a thin layer of peanut butter, a handful of high-fiber cereal.

  • Switch to whole-wheat pastas.

  • Cut and bag veggies for ready-to-eat snacks.

  • Share an entree with a friend when eating out.

  • For dessert, blend fruit, low-fat milk, ice and a splash of pineapple juice, or stir chocolate syrup into a cup of coffee-flavored yogurt and freeze for later.

The HOPE Mobile is a component of the Healthy Communities Partnership, a collaborative organization comprised of dozens of community agencies. It is supported in part by the Abraham Lincoln Healthcare Foundation.

[Text from file received from Healthy Communities Partnership]

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