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Methods for Meeting Basic Needs: Nutrition

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

You may not be going hungry at night, but are you eating a healthy, well balanced diet? Many adults eat a diet that is convenient rather than healthy; one they purchase in prepared form from various take out places, restaurants and supermarkets. This diet is typically high in saturated fats (like cheese, butter, mayonnaise and beef), high in refined white flour and sugar products (white bread, candy, ice cream, cake, cookies), and biased towards hefty portions of meat. The portions of these foods consumed at each mean are also large.

There are serious health risks associated with this typical American diet. People who eat like this are setting themselves (and their children) up for dramatically increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and various cancers.

It is relatively easy to eat a healthier diet and avoid much of this risk. To do so:

  • Eat smaller portions. If you eat out at restaurants, ask for a takeout box and put half your meal into it before you begin eating.
  • Eat whole grain breads and cereals rather than ones made from white flour. White flour is highly refined, and highly refined products are generally not good for you.
  • Eat fruit for snacks and dessert rather than candy, cake or cookies. Fruit is unrefined; while candy, cake and cookies are all made with refined white flour and sugar which is bad for your health. Similarly, drink water, iced tea or diet soft drinks instead of sugared soft drinks to avoid consuming extra refined sugar you don't need.
  • Buy and eat more fresh vegetables. You should be eating five or more servings a day of fresh fruits and vegetables. Brightly colored vegetables like spinach and carrots are both colorful and packed with nutrients.
  • Eat organic foods when you can find them. This goes for fruits and vegetables, milk, and meat as well. Conventional foods are sprayed with pesticides and injected with hormones and dyes in order to make them yield more, last longer and look prettier. Organic foods are grown without such "aides". When you eat organic foods, you eat less pesticides and hormones, and your food tends to taste better.
  • Substitute olive oil for butter at your table. Olive oil contains a healthier kind of fat (unsaturated fat) than butter does (butter contains saturated fat which is linked to heart disease). For the same reasons, avoid eating anything that has "partially hydrogenated" oil or "trans-fats" in it. Oils that have been hydrogenated have been made into saturated fats through an industrial process.

Following these and similar tips for eating healthier will give you better energy, and help you preserve your health over the course of your life.