Public Health Week theme is "Eat Well." Eating well starts with
knowing what a healthy meal looks like, but for many people, this
is a challenge. In our supersized world of larger portions and
convenience foods, finding healthy options and preparing a healthy
meal almost feels like a special occasion. And it shouldn't
be. Despite efforts to promote dietary guidelines and healthy
eating, public health messages seem to be falling on deaf ears and
full plates of less-than-healthy foods.
According to Let's
Move!, First Lady Michelle Obama's initiative dedicated to
solving the problem of obesity, as a country, we are now eating 31
percent more calories than we were 40 years ago, and the average
American now eats 15 more pounds of sugar a year than in 1970.
The most recent Dietary
Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services were released in 2010 and feature three goals:
- Balance calories with physical activity to manage weight.
- Consume more of certain foods and nutrients such as fruits,
vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and
- Consume fewer foods with sodium (salt), saturated fats, trans
fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and refined grains.
Although countless public health initiatives have been aimed at
getting to people to eat healthier, far fewer campaigns have
targeted the issue of
food insecurity. In 2012, 47 million Americans had a hard time
feeding their family, and in a country with so much overabundance,
that should never be the case.
The topic of food insecurity often gets clouded by political
conversations about who should receive public assistance, including
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and
what they should have to do to get them. Lost in the back and forth
is that without this help, far too many people--most of them
children and the elderly--are not just failing to "eat well." In
some cases, they are failing to eat at all Also lost in the debate
is the fact that more than 50 percent of SNAP recipients are
children and the elderly, and only 8 percent receive welfare.
As you see, eating well isn't always that easy, and finding
affordable healthy foods is more than a little tricky.
Healthy foods are more expensive to purchase and harder to find
in many areas.
There are things you can do. Following are highlights from
National Public Health Week's suggestions for getting started on
the road to encouraging others in your community to eat well:
- Work with community leaders to spread information on meal
planning and nutritional requirements.
- Ask local restaurants to provide nutrition information on their
- Sponsor a community wide "meatless Monday" where everyone
forgoes meat for one day.
- Support local farmers markets and other access points to fresh
fruits and vegetables.
- Start a healthy food co-op, organize a canning circle, gather a
walking group or form a club dedicated to volunteering.
- Work with local schools to help them educate children on
healthy eating habits early.
Tweaking a few meal choices, planning ahead, and making use of
free resources available (
many online) to embrace a healthier lifestyle will go a long
way in helping to achieve better overall health.