Current trends in food intake show that most Americans do not have healthy eating patterns. About half of all American adults—117 million individuals—have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor quality eating patterns and physical inactivity, according to the USDA. The number of adults, children and youth that are overweight or obese are also high across each age.
Tonya Stacy, VNA’s Director of Vaccine and Wellness Services, explains that a good diet is directly related to staying healthy. “Lifestyle is about what we eat and what we do. As people have a healthier diet it’s going to help them with healthier outcomes,” said Stacy.
Some challenges to eating healthy are that many people don’t take time to eat well, while others may not have the resources—organic produce for example are often priced higher than non-organic options. “Eating healthier is more expensive,” said Stacy. “When you are on a limited budget that is a challenge.”
Some ways to save money on healthy food include going for high-nutrition, low-cost items like beans, rice or quinoa. Also, planning your meals around sales and buying generic items can save money, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Growing your own produce and buying in bulk can also help lower the cost of your next shopping trip.
Stacy shared some best practices for a healthy diet including cutting up fruit and vegetables the night before work, planning and preparing meals on the weekend and slow cooking meals. “Healthy eating is about the time you put into preparing it,” said Stacy. “People have to get in the habit of doing it.”
She also emphasized that eating healthy shouldn’t be thought of as a “diet” but a lifestyle change. Each individual should set their own pace for eating better; drinking less soda a day or eating one less candy bar may be a big personal accomplishment for some and a step toward better eating habits.
Some resources for those interested in learning more about nutrition are www.choosemyplate.gov - where you can build a healthy meal plan and find other information about wellness. VNA also provides grocery store tours to corporations who participate in VNA’s wellness program. A nutritionist can guide a group through a grocery store, explaining what aisles to avoid and how to read labels to make healthy choices the next time they’re out shopping. Stacy said the tours have been well received by employees. “The employees do enjoy the tours,” said Stacy. “It’s physically teaching them about nutrition”