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Celebrate National Nutrition Month
Health advice
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March is National Nutrition Month. Americans should focus on a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the American Dietetic Association and designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.
The food and physical activity choices you make affect your health — today, tomorrow and in future years.  You may be eating plenty of food, but not eating foods with the right nutrients. Or you may not be getting enough physical activity to stay fit and burn extra calories. People in the habit of living a healthy lifestyle can reduce their risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and certain cancers. This, in turn, increases their chances for a longer life. There is a right number of calories for each person to consume each day. This number depends on age, activity level and whether a person is trying to gain, maintain or lose weight. However, becoming healthier isn’t just about eating healthy — it’s also about physical activity. Regular physical activity is important for everyone’s overall fitness. It also helps control body weight by balancing calories consumed each day with the number of calories expended in physical activity.
A healthy eating plan is one that:
• Emphasizes fruits and vegetables. Eat a variety of fruits — whether fresh, frozen, canned or dried — rather than fruit juice for most of your fruit choices. For a 2,000 calorie diet, you will need two cups of fruit each day (for example, one small banana, one large orange and one-fourth of a cup of dried apricots or peaches). Eat more dark green veggies, such as broccoli, kale and other dark leafy greens. Also, be sure to include orange veggies, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and winter squash. Beans and peas (such as pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, split peas, and lentils) should also be a regular part of a healthy diet.
• Ensures that your grains are “whole.” Eat at least 3 ounces of whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice or pasta every day. One ounce is about one slice of bread, one cup of breakfast cereal or a half cup of cooked rice or pasta.
• Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. Choose lean meats and poultry. Bake it, broil it or grill it. And vary your protein choices — with more fish, beans, peas, nuts and seeds.
• Is low in saturated fats and sodium, limits sugar and is high in potassium. Look for foods low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Keep total fat intake between 20- 35 percent of calories. Research shows that eating less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium (about one teaspoon of salt) per day may reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Look for foods high in potassium. Potassium counteracts some of sodium’s effects on blood pressure.
• Provides calcium-rich foods. We need to get three cups of low-fat or fat-free milk — or an equivalent amount of low-fat yogurt and/or low-fat cheese (one-and-a-half ounces of cheese equals one cup of milk ) — every day. Kids ages 2- 8 should drink two cups of milk each day. If you don’t or can’t consume milk, choose lactose-free milk products.  
It’s very important that kids develop positive behaviors as this helps ensure healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
Ways that parents and caregivers can help do this are by:
• Setting an example of being physically active for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Increasing the intensity or the amount of time that you are physically active can have even greater health benefits and may be needed to control bodyweight. About 60 minutes a day may be needed to prevent weight gain. Children and teenagers should be physically active for 60 minutes every day.
• Involve children by giving them “ownership” of their nutrition — invite your children to help prepare meals. Teach them the importance of fruits and vegetables and calcium-rich foods in their diet — let them choose their favorite cheese and fruit at the grocery store.
• Provide snacks for added nutrition. Children benefit from the added nutrition found in daily snacks if parents teach them to choose wisely. Offer milk, cheese, yogurt, orange juice, peanuts, fruit or vegetables with yogurt dips. Don’t let chips, candy, cookies or sodas be one of the options.
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