Healthy food choices: 1 piece of the proactive health puzzle
5/13/2021 by Rachel Braun
Scan the headlines of any popular fitness magazine, online health blog or social media platform, and you are bound to see "proactive health." Studies suggest that nearly two-thirds of people in the U.S. are making an effort to be proactive about their health. But what is the proactive health movement and how does eating well fit into this trend?
Proactive health movement is the public's increased interest in making changes in lifestyle habits and choices to live well and prevent disease. Being proactive about your health can include changes in diet, exercise, sleep hygiene, dental health and muscle strength and flexibility.
Choosing a healthy diet is one piece of proactive health. The public is being exposed to more channels via the internet and social media to learn about healthy foods and what that food can do for them. It is important to not get pulled into trendy or restrictive food habits, but rather consider food choices and habit changes that are backed by science.
Here are some tips for focusing on a proactive diet:
- Eating a balanced diet.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends consuming food from multiple food groups, including whole grains, lean protein, fiber-rich whole fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy. Using the plate method, which divides up the plate to ensure appropriate portion sizes of different foods, can be a strategy to eat a balanced diet.
- Taking dietary supplements.
Individual nutrient needs vary depending on age and health conditions. Sometimes supplements are needed to fill a gap when someone cannot meet the need through diet. Discuss supplements with your health care team.
- Eating food with added functional benefits.
While the government has no legal definition for functional food, referring to the Nutrition Facts label and ingredients list can help determine if a food is a healthy choice. Functional foods include minimally processed, whole foods. A few examples include antioxidant-rich berries; fatty fish like salmon that are rich in omega-3; or unsalted, heart-healthy nuts.
- Supplementing diet with healthier foods.
A good first step is as easy as increasing your fruit and vegetable intake. You can start small. Adding just one serving — about one cup per day — is a great start.
- Eating superfoods.
A superfood is nutrient-dense, meaning they contain high volumes of protein, vitamins, minerals, or fiber in a portion. Examples include broccoli, which is rich in fiber and antioxidants, and low in calorie; oranges, which are high in fiber, vitamin C and potassium; and blueberries, which provide antioxidants and phytochemicals.
There are many pieces of the puzzle of proactive health to pursue. Healthy food choices for proactive health don't need to be flashy, restrictive or difficult to follow. When it comes to diet, choose a piece to work on — like more fruits and veggies — and see how it fits into your life.
Rachel Braun is a dietetic intern at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.