Many people think nutrition is all about what you shouldn’t eat. Fatty meats, fried foods, sugary drinks, rich desserts. But it’s actually much more about what you should eat: fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; fish, lean meats and mono- or polyunsaturated oils, like olive oil or safflower or canola. Everyone but especially children and young adults need plenty of calcium from dairy to build strong bones. Food that’s delicious and satisfying as well as kind to your waistline and protective of your health is what I call healthy eating.
If you eat well most of the time, and teach your children by serving them nutritious foods during the week, it doesn’t matter so much what’s on the table for the Sunday comeda, when several generations of aunts and uncles and cousins crowd around the table as mami piles on all the food that’s muy sabrosa. When the whole family gets together, you see with your own eyes which relatives are carrying too much weight. And you probably know which of them suffers from diabetes, heart disease, acid reflux, and, God forbid, even cancer. Which can be scary.
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Hispanic Americans are almost twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with diabetes. While they are less likely to develop breast or prostate cancer, they are twice as likely to die from liver cancer. And Hispanic women have almost double the rates of stomach and cervical cancer.
Did you know that all these illnesses, including cancer, are diet related, and that you can greatly reduce the risk to your children by changing their daily diet? If more than one family member has a disease, you might think it’s in your genes and there’s nothing you can do about it. But that is most definitely not the case. While our DNA does play a role, other factors are extremely important, and five lifestyle factors over which we have control have an enormous effect on our health:
- Not smoking.
- Moderate use of alcohol.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Regular physical activity.
- Eating a varied healthy diet, with an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
Chances are, you’re already trying to eat healthier. Almost all my patients tell me they eat healthy. But many of us don’t realize what that really means. If you follow this column each month, I’ll teach you how to improve your health, your children’s, and that of your entire family by the choices you make about what to put on the table. You’ll learn ways to lighten up traditional dishes as well as exciting new ideas for easy suppers and snacks. I’ll teach you how to introduce new foods to your children—and the rest of your family—as well as which supplements are necessary and how to get enough of the kinds of exercise you need for optimal health.
Next month, I’ll talk about how to keep your child a healthy weight. Please leave a comment and let us know what nutritional questions and concerns you have for your family.
To learn more about Susan Wyler click here.