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
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
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
What about grains, dairy products,
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.
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.