Does The Word “Diet” Give You A Bad Taste In Your Mouth?
Most of us associate the word diet with weight loss, food restriction, calorie reduction and well, misery.
The less-partial dictionary defines diet as simply, “food and drink regularly consumed,” or “habitual nourishment.” I try to limit the use of the word “diet” because of the stigma attached, and opt instead for terms like “eating pattern” or “eating habits.” The bottom line: Learn to follow a healthy diet (or eating pattern) and perhaps you won’t have to “diet” anymore.
Now for the big question: What is a healthy eating pattern? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 are hot off the press, being released just last month. In short, they serve to provide a guide for Americans to improve their eating patterns for better health.
One option for healthy eating is the Mediterranean style of eating. Gaining popularity over the past several years, the Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern has even earned itself a spot in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines. Studies have shown that traditional Mediterranean-style eating can reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce the risk of death from cancer and reduce the incidence of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
The Mediterranean style of eating is not a single plan, but instead a guide that emphasizes plant-based foods, fish, healthy oils and smaller amounts of meat and dairy. It also focuses on foods you can eat.
The basic Mediterranean-style eating plan includes:
- Whole grains, vegetables and fruits served at most meals, with fruits eaten as desserts
- Olive oil as the principal source of dietary fat used for baking and cooking
- Nuts, beans, legumes and seeds, eaten for a good source of protein, healthy fat and fiber
- Herbs and spices used to season dishes instead of salt
- Fish and shellfish consumed for protein and lean cuts of meats, eaten in small portions
- Red wine consumed in moderation, if appropriate
Many foods included in the Mediterranean-style eating plan also contain cholesterol-lowering properties, a point worth mentioning since February was American Health Month. These nutrients include:
Omega-3s: These are healthy fats with heart protective benefits. They may lower triglyceride levels, improve “good” cholesterol (HDL) levels and reduce the risk of blood clots.
Good sources of omega-3s are found in fish, including salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, as well as flaxseed and walnuts.
Monounsaturated Fat: This is a good substitute for the unhealthier saturated and trans fats and can help lower cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats are also high in the antioxidant vitamin E. Healthy monounsaturated fats are found in foods such as nuts, peanut butter, avocado, olive oil and canola oil.
Fiber: This nutrient has lots of important roles in our bodies and has been shown to help lower cholesterol. Total fiber intake should be 25 to 30 grams a day by eating a variety of plant-based foods, including whole grains, dried beans, fruits and vegetables.
Like many of you, I love to eat good food. But I also understand the impact that prolonged poor eating habits can have on health and weight. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines remind us that following a healthy eating pattern over time can help support a healthy body weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. The Mediterranean style of eating is the perfect way to incorporate tasty and healthy foods into your “diet.”
Meet Our Dietitian
At Owensboro Health, you’ll get nutrition counseling from a registered nutritionist — an expert in medical nutrition therapy. Beth Cecil, RDN, LD (right), is certified in food allergy management and is a Lifestyle Coach for the Diabetes Prevention Program. She also holds a Certificate of Training in Childhood and Adolescent Management, so you can trust her to care for your or your loved one’s specialized needs.