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Current science shows that healthy eating patterns and regular physical activity not only can help people reach and sustain good health but can also reduce the risk of chronic disease throughout people’s lives. Healthy eating patterns can be adapted for a person’s preferences in taste, traditions, and culture.

American statistics on food, nutrition, and weight are alarming. Projections indicate that by 2030, half of all adults—115 million—in the United States will be obese, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Overweight teenagers have a 70% chance of being overweight or obese adults. It is estimated that obesity-related illness, including chronic disease, disability, and death, carry a cost of $190 billion annually.1

HEALTHY EATING PATTERNS

If you wonder what it means to develop healthy eating patterns, the HHS’s President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition’s guidelines recommend eating these every day:

-A variety of vegetables
-Whole fruits
-Whole grains
-A variety of proteins
-Oils, including those from plants and those naturally present in nuts, seeds, seafood, and olives

Other tips to remember include the following:2

AVOID:

-Processed foods that come in boxes, cans, or packets because of their excessive sodium, sugar, preservatives, and additives.
-Long, complicated ingredients labels. The shorter and easier to understand, the better.

LIMIT OR ELIMINATE: Sodium, added sugars, saturated fats, and sweetened drinks.3

DO EAT:

-Five or six meals a day to keep your blood-sugar levels even and your energy levels high.4
-Fresh foods and other ingredients grown locally.

How do you find fresh, locally grown foods and ingredients? You can find them at nearby farmers’ markets, consumer-owned cooperative grocery stores, and some chain grocery stores in your area. Eating fresh, locally grown foods is easier than ever today. Buying and eating food that comes from your immediate or surrounding area is not only healthy for you, but it’s good for your local economy, environment, and social health.5

Here are two more great reasons to buy local foods.6

Fruits and vegetables start losing nutrients as soon as they are picked. Foods that come from local or nearby sources are fresher. They have not spent days traveling across the country to get to you. Look carefully at labels to see from where the food originated. The farther away your fruits and vegetables traveled, the less fresh they are.

Sticking with local foods results in consuming the tastiest, nutrient-rich produce of the season. In the spring, focus on leafy vegetables. The greening that occurs in springtime should be represented by greens on your plate, including kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, fresh parsley, and basil. In the summer, stick with light, cooling foods, such as strawberries, apples, pears, and plums and vegetables like summer squash, broccoli, and cauliflower. In the fall, turn toward autumn harvest foods, including carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, and garlic. Emphasize warming spices like ginger, peppercorns, and mustard seeds. In the winter, turn even more toward warming foods, such as root vegetables, including carrots, potatoes, squash, onions, and garlic.7

KEEPING CALORIES IN CHECK

When eating at restaurants or through a meal-ordering service, make sure the establishment promotes itself as “farm-to-table” or publicizes that it uses locally sourced food. Other guidelines to keep your calories in check include the following:

-Avoid ordering appetizers and other before-the-meal extras.
-Ask for butter, salad dressings, and sauces to be served on the side.
-Choose broiled, baked, or grilled proteins.
-Stay away from high-sodium foods.
-Be selective at salad bars. Avoid cheeses, premade pasta, or bean salads.
-Choose desserts like fresh fruit, fruit ice, sherbet, gelatin, or angel food cake.
-Control portion size by asking for a lunch-size helping, sharing with your companion, or asking for a to-go box before your meal is served so you can put away half of it for later.
-Opt for a small salad, fruit, or vegetables as a side.

Local, fresh foods support your good health, but they also serve your community in a variety of ways. Locally sourced food leaves a smaller carbon footprint than foods that have been shipped thousands of miles. Homegrown food preserves green space and farmland in your community. Less distance between your food source and your kitchen table also reduces the chance of contamination. It supports your local economy. (Money spent locally stays local.) And since the food travels through fewer hands, more of the money you spend ends up back in the pockets of those who raised and grew your food. Finally, buying at farmers’ markets creates community. It becomes a place where the locals gather to chat and socialize.

Sources:
1 https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/eat-healthy/dietary-guidelines-for-americans/index.html
2 http://www.eatingwell.com/article/78846/7-tips-for-clean-eating/
3 https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/eat-healthy/dietary-guidelines-for-americans/index.html
4 http://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/smart-choices/clean-eating
5 http://www.sustainabletable.org/246/sustainable-agriculture-the-basics
6 https://www.washington.edu/wholeu/2016/04/29/the-benefits-of-eating-locally-grown-foods/
7 http://naturallysavvy.com/eat/eating-healthy-seasonal-food

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