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JBSA News
NEWS | Feb. 28, 2013

Nutrition month stresses food preferences

By Robert Goetz Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

Eating healthy does not have to mean bland or boring.

The National Nutrition Month 2013 theme, "Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day," encourages personalized healthy eating styles that lean heavily on food preferences, individual lifestyles and cultural traditions while adhering to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate nutrition guide.

At Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Barbara Swanson, Health and Wellness Center registered dietitian, said she uses the MyPlate guide as a template for educating people on healthy choices based on their preferences. MyPlate recommends that fruits and vegetables make up half of a meal and whole grains and proteins make up the other half, with low-fat or fat-free dairy on the side

"The template is useful for anyone," she said. "For people who like Asian food, that would mean choosing soy, tofu or fish for their protein and brown rice for their whole grains."

Examples of healthy ethnic foods cited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which sponsors National Nutrition Month, include Italian minestrone, a tomato-based soup containing vegetables, beans and pasta; Greek tzatziki, a dressing of low-fat yogurt, garlic and cucumbers; and Polish beets.

For people who don't have time for restaurants, the academy recommends single-serve packages of crackers, fruit, peanut butter, low-sodium soup and canned tuna.

In addition to advising people how they can prepare or order a healthy meal based on their own preferences, Swanson said she encourages them to "be intentional" about increasing their daily consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are important because they provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber and other healthful substances that may reduce the risk of cancer, stroke and cardiovascular diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They're also naturally low in fat and calories.

The academy recommends a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green, red and orange varieties, as well as beans and peas. A healthy, balanced meal should contain more vegetables than fruits.

People should also favor plant foods over animal foods and grilled or baked foods over fried foods, Swanson said.

"Animal protein is at least 25 to 28 percent fat," she said. "Each serving should be no bigger than a deck of cards."

"Making healthy choices is not about willpower; it's about awareness," she said. "We have this brain chemistry going on. There is a strong drive for pleasure that inhibits our voice of reason. If you keep paying attention to the voice of reason and minimize your exposure to toxic foods, it becomes a repeated behavior, and that imbeds in your brain."

Tips that help people make the right choices include removing tempting foods from the house, making a shopping list and going to the grocery store when they're not hungry or feeling stressed, Swanson said.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' National Nutrition Month, now in its 40th year, focuses attention on making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.