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: “Eating Well” During National Public Health Week

“Eating Well” During National Public Health Week

Managing Editor

Today's National 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 seafood.
  • 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 menus.
  • 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.

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The Healthy(ist) blog is a platform to share, learn about, and debate topics related to public and social health, scientific research, health communications, and behavior change.
We invite and encourage anyone interested in current public health and health communication trends and issues to join MMG's contributing bloggers in adding their voice to the ongoing discussion about how we can advance health, together.

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