I sat down to pump out a blog post today about nutrition for March since it’s National Nutrition Month and couldn’t decide exactly where to start. There are SO MANY (so many!) topics related to family nutrition. – What is most important? What do Moms’ want to read about? There is so much buzz from Moms about what their kids are eating, so I know nutrition is a top priority for many Moms today. It quickly became clear to me that this particular topic deserves much more than one blog post in March. This is why I’m so very excited to announce an entire series of blog posts dedicated to family nutrition!!! Each month we’ll cover a different topic while describing the real challenges Moms face with possible solutions and answers.
So, for this first post in Real Kids Real Food, let’s get warmed up and just cover the basics…..
Why should you listen to me? Well, don’t just listen. I hope you read and reflect and post any comments (the good, the bad, and the ugly). I don’t intend to spout my own beliefs, I only intend to provide topics of discussion. Discuss with your family, discuss with your friends, and discuss with me if needed! We are all faced with the same challenges. Let’s share our ideas for the good of better health!
I am a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I really didn’t give an ounce of thought about nutrition until I started nursing school at UNC-Chapel Hill. It was one of those earth shattering 10-zillion light bulb moments when it hit me…disease and illness are so much influenced by the foods and other substances that we put into our bodies. Duh! Furthermore, the symbiotic relations among vitamins and minerals was absolutely fascinating. Did you know you need Vitamin C to absorb Iron and Vitamin D to absorb Calcium and some vitamins require fat to be absorbed? More on that later.
So, my first credential is my nursing degree. My second credential is the fact that I developed Diabetes Type 1 (the kind that depends on daily injections of insulin) in my late 20’s. I literally have to read labels and calculate carbohydrates every time (yes every time) I put a bite of food into my mouth. I’ve been reading and calculating for almost 10 years now and have built a very strong appreciation for all the big and little ingredients and nutritional values in foods of all sorts. I learned very quickly that not all sugars are created equal. In other words, by checking my blood sugars after eating, I’m like a little lab rat. I see the immediate results of how different foods affect blood sugar. For instance, a bowl of cereal causes blood sugar to quickly spike and then crash. A bowl of oatmeal, on the other hand, causes a more steady rise and slow gentle fall. Much easier and healthier for the body. (Of note, a healthy person may not experience such extreme ups and downs, but that surge of sugar still puts an unnecessary strain on your body.) Finally, I have three boys with very healthy appetites. We live in a house where the milk is always empty and the trash is always full! Feeding these three, and feeding them well, is about as easy as climbing Mount Everest while pulling a dump truck on a tow line.
Okay enough about me, how about our culture in general. How do Americans measure up when it comes to nutrition? I truly believe that you have to know where you’ve been before you can move forward. Stop to think a minute – how much our culture has changed in just 4 short generations when it comes to how and where we eat. We went from a primarily agricultural society to a world where we now have a fast food joint on every corner and we can even have groceries delivered to our doorstep. We have experienced an explosion of food availability and convenience. Food manufacturers have made leaps and bounds in providing relatively cheap food that tastes good. The problem is food that tastes good isn’t necessarily good for you. But, how very confusing this is on the most primitive level. The brain says “it tastes good and I want to eat it”. We owe it to ourselves and to humanity to be knowledgeable about the foods we eat. We need to be able to make good choices with all the food options we have at our fingertips.
So, where do we start? How do we learn more about what we should be eating? As we were growing up we learned about the Food Pyramid and the 5-A-Day rule and now there’s the My Plate campaign. But where does all this come from? It turns out the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services are required to publish research based guidelines every 5 years. You can find the most recent national Dietary Guidelines published on the USDA website. These most recent guidelines focus more on individual eating patterns and preferences and how to structure your own nutritional needs to reach optimal health.
The high-level goals for the general population include:
- Increase fruits and vegetable
- Increase whole grains
- Increase fat-free and low-fat dairy
- Increase beans and other legumes
- Increase lean proteins
- Increase healthy oils
- Limit added sugars and syrups
- Decrease your intake of processed foods
- Limit saturated and trans fats
- Limit sodium intake depending on your age
I encourage you to look over it for yourself see how your family’s eating patterns compare. According to the 2015-2020 American Dietary Guidelines, healthy eating patterns for life start during our childhood years. Don’t we owe it to our kids and our family’s health to read a little more and make a few changes? What specific topics would you like to learn more about? What specific topics do you hear discussed the most among Moms?
Stay tuned for the next post in the series Real Kids Real Food.
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