By Tara Smith
Welcome to Healthy Eating and You, a new monthly column sponsored by Healthy Rowan.
Healthy Rowan is a group of representatives from nonprofit and social institutions; District, city and state programs; Health authorities; District and community departments; and more. We work to educate, encourage, and create opportunities to get and stay healthy in Rowan County citizens of all ages. Healthy Rowan has led initiatives such as promoting the Daily Mile in our elementary schools, introducing “Exercise Is Medicine” in health clinics, and participating in Healthy Food Pantry programs. TThe group of more than 50 representatives meets once a month.
Future columns will be provided by various Healthy Rowan agency representatives. For anyone looking for information or resources on groceries, please go to nccare360.org.
As a member agency of Healthy Rowan, Meals on Wheels Rowan focuses on the nutrition of seniors. It keeps up with Rowan County’s health trends and works to offer meals that keep seniors healthy. In 2015, our Rowan County’s health assessment identified four health areas where Rowan County’s percentages exceeded the national average, including heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and stroke. All four of these diseases are related to obesity and poor diet.
They are often referred to as “lifestyle diseases” because lifestyle changes can prevent, treat and reverse them. Citizens identified these diseases as areas of concern for our community. The health assessment shows that Rowan Counties are aware of our health issues. So the question is, “What do we do about it?”
When it comes to food and nutrition, listen to your doctor, consult a registered nutritionist, and educate yourself with community resources like the Rowan Public Library. And you can read this column every month to learn more about nutrition and healthy eating.
We know that eating healthy can be challenging for some and easier for others. Mixed messages about what to and not to eat can confuse many people. You can make a healthy diet a little less demanding by carefully planning your meals, with health and nutrition first, choosing less processed foods, and focusing on one change at a time.
Nutrients in food play an essential role in the body, so consuming various nutrient-rich foods is an important foundation for a healthy diet. An example is the Meals on Wheels meal template, which is specifically tailored for the portion sizes and types of food that will be offered to attendees. Every home-delivered meal consists of:
• 3-4 ounces appetizer (protein)
• Two vegetables, 3-4 ounces each
• Two fruits, 3-4 ounces each
• One grain, 1 – 1 and a half ounces each
• A milk
The monthly menu cycle includes different foods in each food group that contribute to broader nutrient intake. For example, rice, pasta, and bread are all grains, but the nutrients they provide are not the same. Variety prevents boredom if you eat the same foods every day!
Meals on Wheels Rowan also works with its food service provider to ensure that no salt and sugar are added to the food. A registered nutritionist does the nutritional analysis for each menu so that meals meet state and national standards for protein, vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy products, sodium and fat. Rowan’s Meal on Wheels meal template is just one example of how to plan a healthy meal.
Supplementing with nutritious snacks when needed is a great way to establish and maintain healthy eating habits. Fruits and vegetables are great snacks and offer many health benefits such as fiber and antioxidants. Eating different colored fruits and vegetables (think “rainbows”) provides different nutrients.
Be sure to discuss any dietary changes with your doctor in order to adequately treat possible diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease.
Let’s take responsibility for our nutrition and health in Rowan County! It’s never too late to make healthy eating a priority!
Tara Smith, RD, LDN is a member of the Board of Directors of Meals on Wheels and a visiting columnist.