The most important things that any of us can do are these (listed, not necessarily, but maybe, in order of impact):
- Do not smoke tobacco (don't start or do quit).
- Exercise - everyday (30 to 60 minutes of activity that increases your heart rate).
- Maintain a healthy weight (this is relative, but for most people it means losing weight).
- Eat within a calorie appropriate (controlled) recommended dietary pattern, e.g., the Mediterranean Diet, which is plant based.
- Get some sun, but not more than 10 minutes without protection (also relative to time of year, your skin pigmentation and where you live).
- Avoid alcohol in excess (for some this means any alcohol, for others excess means more than 1 or 2 a day or 7 to 14 a week (never more than 3 or 4 in one day).
- Get vaccinated according to the CDC recommendations for your sex and age (and take your children in for their shots).
- Practice safer sex - i.e., use condoms and discretion.
- For those suffering from any substance use disorder, SAMHSA can direct you to supportive services
- Do not fall for diet and supplement scams - nutrition comes from food and weight control comes from balancing intake with expenditure. If whatever supplement or plan you are hearing about was as much of a break through as the ad says, we would NOT have an obesity epidemic. Please believe me.. there is NO pill for you. Reread numbers 1 - 9 above, this is the key to health.
- Remember these final words of truth:
- Non-GMO only means something does not contain genetically modified ingredients, not that its low calorie or necessarily good for you.
- Organic means something has been raised according to specific standards, and so the plant or animal was not treated with chemicals or antibiotics. Organic foods are not scientifically better for you than conventional foods (though there IS concern about antibiotics in the food chain). Organic foods are not necessarily or ever lower in calories than similar non-organic foods.
- All natural is finally being defined by the FDA - but stay tuned for the final rule and then years before companies have to comply. Even if something is truly natural - not at all processed - that does not mean it is good for you, wont' hurt you, or is low in calories.
- There are legal definitions for low calorie, low fat, low sodium, etc.. and 'lower' means something different than low.
- Read the nutrition facts panels, think about serving sizes.. pay attention to calories (usually a lower calorie item will also be low in sugar). Hopefully, the added sugar declaration will be added to labels this year and that will lead manufacturers to reformulate their products.
- Some fat is good for you! Especially consider adding omega 3 fatty acids from food, like salmon.
- ONLY 1% of white people in the United States have CELIAC DISEASE, and even fewer people of other races/ethnicities do. That means, YOU probably don't need a gluten free diet.
- Gluten free does NOT mean low in calories or good for you.
- The health promoting property of olive oil is destroyed when you cook in it. To get the nutrition you are seeking, drizzle a teaspoon over your cooked veggies instead.
- Get your fiber from plant based foods and whole grains, not mixes and pills.
On a sad note, the national vending and menu labeling law which is NOW set for compliance in May of 2017 is part of the Affordable Care Act - and may or may not survive the next presidency. That means that local and state laws could once again begin to populate which could be better for us and a nightmare for industry. Stay tuned
Lastly and sincerely, I wish you the healthiest of New Years....remember, though I focus on food, physical activity is the sine qua non of health... make sure you get plenty this year... all year.