The American Dietetic Association recommends following the basic ABCs of good nutrition for you and your family’s health:

Aim for fitness.salad1

Build a healthy base.

Choose sensibly.

Aim for fitness

. Aim for your optimal weight and engage in daily physical activity. Dr. Robert Keith, Extension nutritionist, says regular physical activity not only helps you keep your weight down, it also helps keep you healthy.

“Exercise is very important because it’s been associated with a decrease in a number of problem diseases we see in society today, such as obesity, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes,” Keith says.

exercise1

Keith says most adults should engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least four to five times a week. Moderate exercise is anything that makes you breathe a little bit harder and break a sweat, he says. It includes brisk walking, cycling, swimming, aerobics, dancing or jogging. However, a more complete, well-balanced workout includes about 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, about 20-30 minutes of weight-bearing exercises, such as weight lifting, and about 10-15 minutes of stretching.

Build a healthy base

. Use the food guide pyramid to help you get the right amount of vitamins, minerals, energy and other healthful substances your body needs from food each day. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables should be the foundation of your meals, says Extension Nutritionist Dr. Barbara Struempler. “Whole-grain foods move food through your digestive tract and keep you regular,” she says.

Whole-grain foods and some fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, which usually means they have very few calories, she says. “They are bulky foods that give you a feeling of fullness without all the calories. And high-fiber foods have been associated with lower cancer risks, so there are a lot of merits to eating them,” she says. “Look on ingredient labels for ‘whole wheat.’ Whole wheat has a lot more fiber than just plain wheat.”

Make sure to eat a variety of foods every day, including enough beans and meats for protein and dairy products for calcium. Eat sweets and fats only occasionally.

Also remember to follow basic food safety practices, says Dr. Jean Weese, Extension food safety scientist. “Always wash your hands before you eat or prepare food. Always make sure you wash the food, cook the food and when in doubt, throw it out.”

Keep raw meats and ready-to-serve foods separate from other foods in your refrigerator or freezer. Cook them at proper temperatures and refrigerate promptly after serving, she says. Don’t leave meat out of the refrigerator for more than two hours. If you pack a sandwich made with meat or cheese for lunch, put a thermos or freezer bag full of ice beside it to keep it cold. A few easy food safety practices can go a long way toward keeping you healthy.

Choose sensibly

. Choose to eat a diet high in fruits, veggies, lean meats and whole grains, and low in saturated fats and cholesterol. Choose beverages and foods that are low in sugar; choose and prepare foods with less salt.

“I think you are what you eat,” Struempler says. “Dietary factors are all very strongly linked to all the major diseases – heart disease, some of the cancers, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.”

Choose to be a smart eater. Read labels to see what you are eating. Make wise food choices so you get enough calcium and other nutrients your body needs. Choose herbs or spices instead of salt or margarine to season grilled or roasted meats, potatoes and salads.

Choose to make the ABCs of good nutrition and fitness part of your lifestyle. Aiming for fitness, building a healthy base and choosing foods sensibly will help you lose weight, get in shape and stay healthy.

SOURCES: Dr. Robert Keith, Dr.Barbara Struempler, Dr.Jean Weese.