Top Five Things Your Dietitian Wants You To Know
This month we are recognizing National Nutrition Month. As part of this initiative, Fran Olsen, M.S., R.D., L.D., the new OU Housing and Food Services dietitian, wants you to know five things you can do to live a healthier lifestyle.
1. Consumption of Sodium and Potassium
The ideal diet is one where the sodium and potassium levels are balanced. However, this is not the case for many Americans, including college students.
“High sodium intake is typical of the American diet,” Olsen said. Think of the amount of salt in your french fries or in the butter that you smother onto your pancakes or toast, both of which also contain hidden sodium.
A high level of sodium intake is associated with cardiovascular problems like heart disease and hypertension. Potassium, on the other hand, is a much-needed nutrient that is consistently low in the American diet.
“On average, Americans get about 2600 mg of potassium per day and over 4000 mg of sodium. Note this lack of balance especially when the recommended intake is 4700 mg of potassium per day,” Olsen said.
OLSEN’S TIP: To create a better balance of nutrients, try to lessen your sodium intake and consume more fruits and veggies that are high in potassium.
2. Saturated Fats/Trans-Fats
Saturated fats often are overlooked and can be hidden as well. For example, baked goods contain hidden saturated fats. Meats and dairy products that are not low fat (meats with skin, whole milk, etc.) and solid fats are the biggest contributors of saturated fats in the American diet. Many foods that are high in saturated fat also have high sodium!
Along with saturated fats are trans-fats. These are a type of fat with some saturation.
“Trans-fats are considered so bad for your health that they are in the process of being taken off the General Regarded as Safe (GRAS) list. They are found in many processed meals,” Olsen said.
High consumption of saturated and trans-fats can lead to many major chronic diseases, such as some cancers, heart disease later and possibly diabetes, later in life.
OLSEN’S TIP: To obtain a lower amount of saturated fats, make three-fourths of your plate more plant-based and eat more lean meats. Avoid processed foods and meats like sausage. The fresher your plate is the healthier it will be.
3. Added Sugars
Americans also are major consumers of added sugars, which are typically consumed through beverages. Americans consume more soda than anyone else in the world. Most food venues offer free refills for beverages, making it more difficult to think about the amount of added sugars you consume in each beverage. The accessibility of the drink is effortless.
“Starbucks frappuccinos and soda have extremely high levels of added sugars,” Olsen said. “It is important to note that there is no physical need for added sugars in your diet. Work on consuming less for a healthier you.”
OLSEN’S TIP: For those warm spring and summer days, use 100 percent cranberry juice concentrate in your water. It makes a refreshing drink without added sugars.
4. Savor the Flavor
Eating healthy is not about rigorously following the good and bad, but rather having fun and enjoying your food while creating a healthier lifestyle. Try to savor everything you eat.
There are social, psychosocial and many other components to eating than just feeding your body.
For Olsen, “20-30 percent of eating is for the body; the other 70-80 percent is for the brain.”
OLSEN’S TIP: Don’t see eating healthy as a punishment. Enjoy your time and each flavor. All foods can fit in your diet – you just need to balance them – and healthy things can taste good, too!
5. Physical Activity
Along with a great diet, you need physical activity. There is not a set amount of time appropriate for everyone. Whatever your level of physical activity, increasing it will only benefit your health. It’s good to include cardio, strength and flexibility in your routine.
“The ultimate goal is to work up to 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, 75 minutes of rigorous exercise a week or a combination thereof,” Olsen said.
OLSEN’S TIP: Try not to sit for more than 30 minutes without moving. Make exercise fun by doing something you enjoy, and for motivation, work out with a friend. If going to the gym isn’t your thing, venture outdoors!