Nutrition: Eat It
Badge Steps1. Know thyself -- and thy diet.
Before embarking on any significant change to your diet, get the facts about your dietary needs from a reliable source: your doctor. But your doctor can only help you if she has accurate information about exactly what you eat and what your health issues are. So make an appointment to see your doctor at least a week from now, and in the meantime:
- Keep a complete food and drink diary for a week, noting everything you eat and drink alongside accurate portion sizes. Be honest -- this is the really illuminating part.
- Get a handle on your medical history. The Health History you created for Care for Your Health will come in handy! If you haven't yet earned that badge, list your medical conditions, major illnesses, and medications, plus any medical conditions you know your parents, siblings, and grandparents have had.
- Make a list of questions for your doctor about your diet. Here are a few to get you started: Is there anything obviously missing in my diet? Should I be taking a dietary supplement? (See Carol's Supplement-Savvy Tips.) Do I need to lose weight? Does my health history indicate that I should modify my diet in some way? Diabetes/high cholesterol/osteoporosis is common in my family -- are there any dietary changes I can make to help prevent these problems? Is the rash/headaches/nausea I've been having the result of a food allergy?
Take your food diary, medical history, and dietary questions to your doctor. She'll be impressed -- and it will help you both get a handle on your nutritional needs. If you'd like specific meal-planning pointers, ask your doctor to refer you to a dietitian.
Go to your doctor prepared to make a difference in your health.2. Follow the guidelines.
In addition to the input you get from your doctor, spend an afternoon reality-checking what you think you know about what you should eat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services' Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Food Guide Pyramid are ideal for this. Go to www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/dga and there you'll find:
- Rules of thumb for shopping and menu planning. Stick the Food Guide Pyramid on your fridge, and take the information in the Pyramid Pointers sidebar with you shopping. Carol quips that "It's hard to believe anything concocted by a committee is this sensible! The best thing about these guidelines is that they seem to have been written by real people who actually like food."
- Serving suggestions. The Food Guide Pyramid tells us the numbers of servings we should shoot for from each food group and reminds us what healthy serving sizes really are.
- Tasty options. The Guidelines are big on variety, with Mediterranean, Asian, South American, Native American, and Vegetarian Food Pyramids to please any gourmet palate.
- Reliable research. Dubious about that article you read in National Enquirer about doughnuts being the cure for cancer? Consult the Guidelines to research food and lifestyle choices that promote health, provide energy, and may reduce the risk or severity of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
- Commonsense reminders about aiming for a healthy weight and exercising regularly.
Put the Guidelines to work for you.