March 2013 is the 40th anniversary of National Nutrition Month

AUSTIN, March 18, 2013 - National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

The National Nutrition Month® 2013 theme is “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day” which encourages personalized healthy eating styles and recognizes that a variety of influences impact individual food choices.

Food choice determines nutritional status and in so far as there are influences of diet on health and disease, it is of vital importance to understand the processes by which choices are made. In particular, only with an adequate understanding of the reasons for people’s choice of foods can we attempt to change choices and hence influence dietary patterns in line with recommendations from those involved in promoting health. With an increasingly plentiful and varied food supply the issue of the reasons for food choice becomes extremely important for the area of nutrition. Food choice, like any complex human behavior, will be influenced by many interrelating factors. These factors include food preferences, cultural and ethnic traditions, lifestyle, and health concerns, etc.

Food Preferences
The early home environment in which eating occurs is believed to influence, in important ways, children's eating regulation and the development of food preferences. Early experiences with food and eating have the potential to establish healthy eating habits.

Parents can influence the development of food acceptance patterns by structuring children's early eating environments. They decide the types and amounts of food that are served to their children, determine the timing of children's meals and snacks, and provide the social context in which eating occurs.

Parents influence their children's eating by exerting feeding practices which may either be conducive or hindering to the development of healthy eating and growth patterns. For example, data have shown that those children whose parents exert much control over their eating or restrict certain desired foods from them, tend to show a weaker intake regulation. It should be noted that these feeding relationships are often bidirectional in that parents also respond to children's requests for particular foods. On the other hand, restrictive feeding practices may be the result rather than the cause of increased BMI in children.

Parents not only influence the types of foods that are available in the home, but also the amount of food that is being served to children. For example, data from nationally representative cross sectional studies revealed positive associations of food portion sizes consumed and daily energy intake in children ranging from 6 months to 5 years. Increasing in the portion size of a main entrée resulted in significant increases in intake among young children. Thus, food environments which offer children convenient access to large portions of palatable, energy-dense foods may contribute to excessive energy intake and weight gain.

Cultural and Ethnic Traditions
Concept of Culture defined:

• Culture – a set of values, beliefs & traditions that are held by a specific social group and handed down from generation to generation
• Ethnicity – pertaining to or characteristic of a people, especially a group sharing a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like
The sense of identification that a cultural group collectively has, is largely based on the group’s common heritage. Nations or countries are frequently associated with certain foods. For example, many people associate Italy with pizza and pasta. Yet Italians eat many other foods, and types of pasta dishes vary throughout Italy. Methods of preparation and types of food vary by regions of a nation. Some families in the United States prefer to eat "meat and potatoes," but "meat and potatoes" are not eaten on a regular basis, nor even preferred, by many in the United States and would not be labeled a national cuisine. Grits, a coarsely ground corn that is boiled, is eaten by families in the southern United States. A package of grits is available in the largest supermarkets in the upper Midwest and would have been difficult to find even in large Midwestern supermarkets twenty years ago.

People connect to their cultural or ethnic group through similar food patterns. Immigrants often use food as a means of retaining their cultural identity. People from different cultural backgrounds eat different foods. The ingredients, methods of preparation, preservation techniques, and types of food eaten at different meals vary among cultures. The areas in which families live— and where their ancestors originated—influence food likes and dislikes.

Although food is often selected with some attention to physical need, the values or beliefs a society attaches to potential food items define what families within a cultural group will eat. For example, both plant and animal sources may contribute to meeting nutritional requirements for protein; soybeans, beef, horsemeat, and other animals’ meat are all adequate protein sources. Yet, due to the symbolism attached to these protein sources, they are not equally available in all societies. Moreover, even when the foods perceived to be undesirable are available, they are not likely to be eaten by people who have a strong emotional reaction against the potential food item.

Food items themselves have meaning attached to them. In many Western countries a box of chocolates would be viewed as an appropriate gift. The recipient of the gift would react differently to a gift of cabbage or carrots than to chocolate. In other countries chocolates might be a less appropriate gift.

Lifestyle is the way a person lives to one's own ability.

An individual’s health depends a lot on their lifestyle. Poor habits may eventually lead to a poor even dangerous lifestyle. Maintaining physical and mental health are crucial to an individual’s longevity. The more time spent on making good lifestyle choices, the healthier they will be. Those who chose to participate in any kind of physical activity on a weekly basis are generally healthier than those who don't.

Always being busy can have an impact on your food choices.

Have you ever bought some fast food because you only had time to “grab a quick bite?” When was the last time you ate something because you did not have a choice, or because it was the best of some bad choices? Most people try to make healthy food choices. Sometimes people’s lifestyles cause them to make choices they might not make otherwise. For example, many teens have part-time jobs. These jobs may prevent teens from eating meals with their families. Often teens take a meal to work or buy something to eat there. The first job for many is actually in the fast-food industry, so often they end up eating more fast food than they did before they got the job.

People’s busy lives have led to the growth of the fast-food industry, the development of drive-through restaurants, and cup holders in vehicles. What would you do if vehicles were not equipped with cup holders so that people can eat on the run? What if there were no drive-through restaurants?

A person’s lifestyle has a major impact on her or his food habits. How has your lifestyle influenced your parents’ eating habits and how have your parents’ lifestyle affected yours?

Health Concerns Related to Nutrition
Many health problems related to nutrition such as overweight and obesity, hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes.

Overweight and Obesity: Nearly two-thirds of the United States population is overweight. Obesity occurs over time when you eat more calories than you use. The balance between calories-in and calories-out differs for each person. Factors that might tip the balance include your genetic makeup, overeating, eating high-fat foods and not being physically active. Being obese increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and some cancers. If you are obese, losing even 5 to 10 percent of your weight can delay or prevent some of these diseases.

Hypertension: high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Each time your heart beats, it pumps out blood into the arteries. Your blood pressure is highest when your heart beats, pumping the blood. This is called systolic pressure. When your heart is at rest, between beats, your blood pressure falls. This is the diastolic pressure.
Your blood pressure reading uses these two numbers, the systolic and diastolic pressures. Usually they are written one above or before the other. A reading of 120/80 or lower is normal blood pressure; 140/90 or higher is high blood pressure; Between 120 and 139 for the top number, or between 80 and 89 for the bottom number is prehypertension.

High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, but it can cause serious problems such as stroke, heart failure, heart attack and kidney failure. You can control high blood pressure through healthy lifestyle habits and taking medicines, if needed.
Heart disease: is the number one killer in the U.S. It is also a major cause of disability. There are many different forms of heart disease. The most common cause of heart disease is narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart itself. This is called coronary artery disease and happens slowly over time. It's the major reason people have heart attacks.
Diabetes: is a serious disease that affects more than 20 million Americans. It can be a lifelong (chronic) disease in which there are high levels of sugar in the blood. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to control blood sugar. Diabetes can be caused by too little insulin, resistance to insulin, or both. People with diabetes have high blood sugar because without enough available insulin their body cannot move sugar into fat, liver, and muscle cells to be stored for energy.
There are two major types of diabetes. The causes and risk factors are different for each type:

· Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, but it is most often diagnosed in children, teens, or young adults. In this disease, the body makes little or no insulin. Daily injections of insulin are needed. The exact cause is unknown.
· Type 2 diabetes makes up most diabetes cases. It most often occurs in adulthood. However, because of high obesity rates, teens and young adults are now being diagnosed with it. Many people with type 2 diabetes do not know they have it.

Health Concerns and Food Choice
The best way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories and be more active. For most people, a reasonable goal is to lose about a pound a week, which means:
· cutting about 500 calories a day from your diet
· eating a variety of nutritious foods
· exercising regularly

How do you get started on healthy eating?
Healthy eating starts with learning new ways to eat, such as adding more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and cutting back on foods that have a lot of fat, salt, and sugar.

A change to healthier eating also includes learning about balance, variety, and moderation.

· Aim for balance. Most days, eat from each food group-grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and protein. Listen to your body. Eat when you're hungry. Stop when you feel satisfied.

· Look for variety. Be adventurous. Choose different foods in each food group. For example, don't reach for an apple every time you choose a fruit. Eating a variety of foods each day will help you get all the nutrients you need

.· Practice moderation. Don't have too much or too little of one thing. All foods, if eaten in moderation, can be part of healthy eating. Even sweets can be okay.

How do you make healthy eating a habit?
· First, think about your reasons for healthier eating. Do you want to improve your health? Do you want to feel better? Are you trying to set an example for your kids?
· Next, think about some small changes you can make. Pick ones you can keep doing.
· Don't try to change everything at once.
· Set an easy goal you can reach, like having a salad and a piece of fruit each day.
· Make a long-term goal too, such as having one vegetarian dinner a week.

10 Tips for Healthy Eating
The key to healthy eating is the time-tested advice of balance, variety and moderation. In short, that means eating a wide variety of foods without getting too many calories or too much of any one nutrient. These 10 tips can help you follow that advice while still enjoying the foods you eat.

1. Eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods. You need more than 40 different nutrients for good health, and no single food supplies them all. Your daily food selection should include bread and other whole-grain products; fruits; vegetables; dairy products; and meat, poultry, fish and other protein foods. How much you should eat depends on your calorie needs. Use the MyPlate diagram and the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels as handy references.

2. Enjoy plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Surveys show most Americans don't eat enough of these foods. Do you eat 6-11 servings from the bread, rice, cereal and pasta group, 3 of which should be whole grains? Do you eat 2-4 servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of vegetables? If you don't enjoy some of these at first, give them another chance. Look through cookbooks for tasty ways to prepare unfamiliar foods.

3. Maintain a healthy weight. The weight that's right for you depends on many factors including your sex, height, age and heredity. Excess body fat increases your chances for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some types of cancer and other illnesses. But being too thin can increase your risk for osteoporosis, menstrual irregularities and other health problems. If you're constantly losing and regaining weight, a registered dietitian can help you develop sensible eating habits for successful weight management. Regular exercise is also important to maintaining a healthy weight.

4. Eat moderate portions. If you keep portion sizes reasonable, it's easier to eat the foods you want and stay healthy. Did you know the recommended serving of cooked meat is 3 ounces, similar in size to a deck of playing cards? A medium piece of fruit is 1 serving and a cup of pasta equals 2 servings. A pint of ice cream contains 4 servings. Refer to the Food Guide Pyramid for information on recommended serving sizes.

5. Eat regular meals. Skipping meals can lead to out-of-control hunger, often resulting in overeating. When you're very hungry, it's also tempting to forget about good nutrition. Snacking between meals can help curb hunger, but don't eat so much that your snack becomes an entire meal.

6. Reduce, don't eliminate certain foods. Most people eat for pleasure as well as nutrition. If your favorite foods are high in fat, salt or sugar, the key is moderating how much of these foods you eat and how often you eat them. Identify major sources of these ingredients in your diet and make changes, if necessary. Adults who eat high-fat meats or whole-milk dairy products at every meal are probably eating too much fat. Use the Nutrition Facts panel on the food label to help balance your choices. Choosing skim or low-fat dairy products and lean cuts of meat such as flank steak and beef round can reduce fat intake significantly. If you love fried chicken, however, you don't have to give it up. Just eat it less often. When dining out, share it with a friend, ask for a take-home bag or a smaller portion.

7. Balance your food choices over time. Not every food has to be "perfect." When eating a food high in fat, salt or sugar, select other foods that are low in these ingredients. If you miss out on any food group one day, make up for it the next. Your food choices over several days should fit together into a healthy pattern.

8. Know your diet pitfalls. To improve your eating habits, you first have to know what's wrong with them. Write down everything you eat for three days. Then check your list according to the rest of these tips. Do you add a lot of butter, creamy sauces or salad dressings? Rather than eliminating these foods, just cut back your portions. Are you getting enough fruits and vegetables? If not, you may be missing out on vital nutrients.

9. Make changes gradually. Just as there are no "superfoods" or easy answers to a healthy diet, don't expect to totally revamp your eating habits overnight. Changing too much, too fast can get in the way of success. Begin to remedy excesses or deficiencies with modest changes that can add up to positive, lifelong eating habits. For instance, if you don't like the taste of skim milk, try low-fat. Eventually you may find you like skim, too.

10. Remember, foods are not good or bad. Select foods based on your total eating patterns, not whether any individual food is "good" or "bad." Don't feel guilty if you love foods such as apple pie, potato chips, candy bars or ice cream. Eat them in moderation, and choose other foods to provide the balance and variety that are vital to good health.

For more information on how to personalize your healthy eating style, contact Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service of Liberty County at (936)334-3230 or come by the office located at 501 Palmer Ave. in Liberty, Texas.

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