Seven Simple Tips for Eating Better in the Summertime
why you can pay the farmer now or the doctor later
Bright red tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, warm corn on the cob: Summer means fresh, delicious fruits and vegetables. Despite all the fresh produce grown in Wisconsin during the summer months, 83% of adults in Eau Claire County report not eating the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables each day for good health. Additionally, obesity and physically inactivity are local health concerns. Based on self-reported height and weight, an estimated 2 in 3 of Eau Claire County adults are either overweight or obese. Additionally, almost 2 in 5 adults aged 20 and over report no physical activity.
Whether it’s starting the day off right with a healthy breakfast, enjoying dinner with your family, or walking the dog, the foods and activity you choose can make a real difference. Healthy eating and getting active doesn’t need to be complicated. Stick with a few simple and sustainable changes that most health professionals agree will promote a long, happy, and healthy life.
Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. Choose a variety of colorful fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruits and vegetables. Pack it as a snack for long car rides or even at work. Add fruit to your breakfast oatmeal. Add a vegetable to your stew, soup, or pasta dish. Check what’s in season to help save money.
Balance the other half of your plate with whole grains and lean protein. Make at least half of your grains whole grains by adding brown rice to your stir-fry dishes. Go lean with your protein such as fish, skinless chicken breast, or beans.
Add a serving of low-fat Wisconsin dairy to your meal. Enjoy a yogurt parfait for breakfast. Add cheese to your sandwich or make a smoothie with low-fat milk. Make or order your next coffee, latte, or cappuccino with low-fat milk.
Sip healthy drinks. Sweet coffee drinks, juice drinks, energy drinks, or soda are a major source of added sugars. Cut calories by drinking water or unsweetened beverages like unsweetened tea. You don’t have to force down plain water. Try adding fresh fruit to your ice-cold water or even sparkling water.
Cook at home. Many processed foods contain high amounts of sodium (salt). Sodium is often hidden in breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, sandwiches, pizza, soup, and chicken.
Enjoy your food, but eat less. Avoid oversized portions by reading and following the serving size on the food label. Eating food off a plate instead straight out of the box or bag will also help limit your portions. Another great tip is to turn off the electronics during mealtime to help you focus on what you are eating and fully enjoy the smell and taste of your food.
Move more, sit less. Eating a healthy diet is not the only key to lifelong health. Being active for 30 minutes a day, five days per week is also important. Move your body more – whether that is walking at the mall, cleaning the house, or dancing to music! Any physical activity is better than none, so find something that you enjoy and can do often.
By making small changes in your diet and your activity level, you can lower your risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Take control of your health today! It’s up to you: Pay the farmer now or the doctor later.
Janessa VandenBerge, MPH, CHES, is a community health educator with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department.