Prevent, not just fix. That is the theme of the latest nutrition trend being referred to as "proactive health." While related phrases like “food is medicine” or “functional nutrition” are gaining traction, this phenomenon is anything but new.
Proactive health focuses on using food and nutrition as an avenue to improve overall health and quality of life, rather than being reactive to fixing a health problem after the fact. Although the term has only recently been coined, the ideals of this lifestyle approach to health have been preached for decades by dietitians and other healthcare professionals alike.
his way of thinking about food contradicts diet culture, which has relied heavily on today’s environment of media overload and misinformation. Falling into the traps of fad diets like keto, paleo or intermittent fasting, goes against the principles of proactive health. Not only are they not sustainable diet patterns, but also give rise to an unhealthy relationship with food, potentially leading to mental and physical consequences.
Investing in your long-term health starts with your daily choices. Food is a necessity, and every time you eat it is an opportunity to fuel your body. These decisions add up, and over time, will compound to affect your health either positively or negatively. Many people already know what to eat to live healthy – more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and less highly processed foods. This means it is not necessarily a lack of knowledge, but rather external barriers or distractions standing in the way. Simple behavior changes and building the right habits can help you be proactive now in order to live a healthier tomorrow.
It is easier said than done, but the key to proactive health is consistency with a well-balanced, quality diet. Choose foods providing nourishment, not just sustenance. This delivers the calories as well as essential nutrients needed for the body to thrive. Adding a variety of colors to your diet through fruits and vegetables is vital to success. These fresh foods not only supply the body with vitamins and minerals, but also add fiber contributing to gut health. Simultaneously, the fiber can keep you full longer, helping you avoid turning to processed convenience foods.
Invest in yourself by prioritizing your health now. Too often people wait till a health condition arises to change their diet.
Nutrition and Health Tips for Better Living
Nutrition matters when it comes to your everyday wellness. If you fail to give your body the vitamins, minerals, and care it needs, it could harm your health. Here are our top ten tips for better and healthier living.
- Eat Breakfast
Start your day with a healthy breakfast that includes lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Try making a breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, low-fat cheese, salsa, and a whole wheat tortilla or a parfait with low-fat plain yogurt, fruit, and whole-grain cereal.
- Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and veggies add color, flavor, and texture plus vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber to your plate. Make 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables your daily goal. Experiment with different types, including fresh, frozen, and canned.
- Watch Portion Sizes
Use half your plate for fruits and vegetables and the other half for grains and lean protein foods. Complete the meal with a serving of fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt. Measuring cups may also help you compare your portions to the recommended serving size.
- Be Active
Regular physical activity has many health benefits. Start by doing what exercise you can. Children and teens should get 60 or more minutes of physical activity per day, and adults at least two hours and 30 minutes per week. You don’t have to hit the gym – take a walk after dinner or put on music and dance at home.
- Fix Healthy Snacks
Healthy snacks can sustain your energy levels between meals, mainly when they include a combination of foods. Choose from two or more of the MyPlate food groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and protein. Try raw veggies with low-fat cottage cheese or hummus or a tablespoon of nut or seed butter with an apple or banana.
- Drink More Water
Quench your thirst with water instead of drinks with added sugars. Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water, especially if you are active, an older adult, or live or work in hot conditions.
- Get Cooking
Preparing foods at home can be healthy, rewarding, and cost-effective. Master some kitchen basics, like dicing onions or cooking dried beans.
- Enact Family Meal Time
Plan to eat as a family at least a few times each week. Set a regular mealtime. Turn off the TV, phones, and other electronic devices to encourage mealtime talk. Get kids involved in meal planning and cooking and use this time to teach them about good nutrition.
- Reduce Added Sugars
Foods and drinks with added sugars can contribute empty calories and little or no nutrition. Review the new and improved Nutrition Facts Label or ingredients list to identify sources of added sugars.
- Slow Down at Mealtime
Instead of eating on the run, try sitting down and focusing on the food you’re about to eat. Dedicating time to enjoy the taste and textures of foods can have a positive effect on your food intake.