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Spring into Good Health

Spring into Good Health

By Deb Siegert, MSEd

 

The beautiful, long days of spring and summer inspire us to think about a fresh start, which makes this the perfect time of year to consider changing the way we eat. The growing season is underway, the Ithaca Farmers Market is open at Steamboat Landing, and fresh, local produce is becoming available at area grocery stores.

 

What we eat affects how we feel, our level of energy, our ability to prevent disease, and our long-term health. And while the human body does have a wide range of tolerance for poor eating habits, a lifetime of bad choices eventually catches up with most people. Consider the fact that any dietary changes we make for the good will have a positive impact on our bodies, and make a commitment to start today.

 

Changing my diet seems so complicated. Where do I start?

 

When most of the baby-boomers were growing up, meat was the mainstay of dinner. However, today the emphasis of a healthy diet has shifted to vegetables, fruits, grains, and low-fat dairy products, with meat as a side dish. One simple strategy to begin balancing your diet is to fill half of your dinner plate with vegetables and fruits of different colors. Devote another section of your plate to whole grains, such as those found in whole wheat bread, brown rice, and dishes like tabouli or couscous, which are made from wheat bulgur.

 

What if I don’t like fruits and vegetables?

 

Experiment! Try some new things. As a registered dietitian, I often work with people who start off by telling me that they know the foods that taste best aren’t good for them. I remind them about the taste of fresh-picked strawberries that are still warm from the sun and cherry tomatoes that are perfect to pop in your mouth right off the vine. In Tompkins County strawberries typically ripen for picking in June, followed by raspberries and blueberries in July. Our local growers offer a bounty of various fruits and veggies. Just make a commitment to try one new food item a week and see what happens.

 

How many servings should I eat each day?

 

The amount each of us needs to eat depends on our age, gender, and how physically active we are. Most adults should aim for about two to three cups of vegetables a day. Over the course of a week, we should include vegetables of all different colors, as well as dry beans (such as black beans and lentils). We should strive for one-and-a-half to two cups of fruit a day. Local fresh fruit is harvested from May through October, beginning with berries and culminating with pears and apples. Melons, cherries, grapes, peaches, and plums are all harvested right here in the Finger Lakes.

 

What about grains, dairy products, and meat?

 

We are fortunate to live in a thriving agricultural region. Locally grown beans, dairy products from cows and goats, and meat are available here. A number of local farmers are committed to sustainable farming and growing organic food, which is an added bonus.

 

How can I find out more about changing my diet?

 

There are some very good resources on the Internet. I can recommend two Web sites to help you get started: www.mypyramid.gov and www.eatright.org. Another local resource to help you learn about basic lifestyle changes, including eating and nutrition, is the Cayuga Center for Healthy Living. To find out more about their classes in nutrition and healthy eating, call (607) 252-3590.

 

Deb Siegert is the clinical nutrition manager for the Department of Nutrition and Dining at Cayuga Medical Center. She is a registered dietitian, a certified renal specialist, and a diabetes educator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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