Nutrition is a broad subject impacting many aspects of our health. We are constantly bombarded by advertisements encouraging us to buy certain food brands or subscribe to the latest diet craze. It can be difficult to cut through the noise and understand what is truly a nutritious diet.
Data supports that obesity rates are climbing nationwide. More than 60% of North Carolinians are considered overweight or obese., according to a 2016 study by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), The CDC also reported concerning numbers related to the diets of North Carolinians; more than 40% of our population stated that they did not eat fruit daily. People are turning away from fruits and vegetables and replacing them with fast food, soft drinks, and fried foods. Some people attempt to maintain a balance with a strong exercise routine. However, it is most beneficial to follow a healthy diet along with an exercise routine.
One important step to maintaining a healthy diet is to understand that a diet is not simply a quick-fix tool to lose weight, but rather a lifestyle commitment. Many people think of diets as limiting—telling them which foods they are not allowed to eat. However, a diet does not have to be restrictive. A well-balanced diet can actually include a wide variety of different foods. On choosemyplate.gov, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that you regularly consume fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein in order to get a balanced diet. Lean meats and eggs are good sources of protein. In addition to this, try limiting the amount of sugar you consume by cutting out soft drinks, along with foods high in fat, such as fried food. Sometimes, one of the first steps to eating a nutritious meal is to actually understand what you are eating. Read the labels of your food for the amount of calories, fats, and salt they contain. While food labels may seem confusing, the National Institute of Health provides online guides (https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/eat-right/nutrition-facts) explaining how to read nutrition labels. You should also try to keep your family involved in eating a healthy diet. Consider cooking together and making meal prep a fun and interactive activity. It is important to remember to plan ahead; often times, having a pre-planned schedule will prevent backslides. Summer months are a good time to visit local markets and enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating healthy does not prohibit you from eating at your favorite restaurant; consider making this a special treat. Ultimately, do not become discouraged or overwhelmed. It is okay to start small. For example, by removing one can of soda from your diet, you can cut out 150 calories a day.
It can be difficult to understand how to follow a healthy diet, but you do not have to go into alone. Seek support and accountability partners. In addition to getting support from your family and friends, Sampson Regional Medical Center and The Center for Health + Wellness provide resources that can help you on this journey. You can find out more by visiting https://www.sampsonrmc.org/health-resources/healthy-living-programs.
Remember, there are many diets that promise fast results, but they are often unsustainable. Following a balanced diet will help you maintain good nutrition throughout your life. Eating a diet varied with fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs, lean meats, and more is one way to eat a nutritious diet and lead a healthy life.
Byline: Payton O’Quinn, Pre-Med Student Intern, Sampson Regional Medical Center
About the contributor:
Payton O’Quinn is from Clinton, NC, and is a 2017 homeschool graduate. He attends North Carolina State University with a major in animal science and minor in genetics. After completion of his undergraduate degree, O’Quinn plans to attend medical school, hopefully in North Carolina. Inspired by the dedicated physicians in Sampson County, his ultimate goal is to practice medicine in a rural community like his hometown. He has a passion for learning and science and looks for opportunities to serve others. His studies in animal science have helped him gain a greater understanding and connection to the community while also studying how nutrition impacts our health.