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Happy New Year! Now let the dieting begin…

Hello Villagers. Happy New year!

If you are like many Americans this new year, eating healthier was included in your New Years Resolutions for 2018. To most of us, eating healthier means “dieting”. But we often think of dieting in the short term, or whatever changes we can do to lose weight fast. This typically involves removing something from the diet, whether it be carbohydrates, sugar, dairy, high fructose corn syrup, etc. Once the weight is gone or the “diet” proves too difficult to follow, we quit and the weight comes back.
This year, instead of thinking about what to take out of your diet, let’s focus on what we should be incorporating into our meals. Think about what our diets are lacking that could make us healthier in the long run. Here are four filling, nutritious, and disease risk reducing foods you should consider adding to or increasing in your diet this year:
Fresh colorful vegetables and fruits

1. Fruits and Vegetables

The fact that I mention these first should not surprise anyone. The importance of fruits and vegetables is shown over and over again in research. Since they are not as flashy as the keto diet or Whole30, the press tends to gloss over these two classic food groups when it comes to New Years Resolution diets. The reality is though, consuming the recommended amounts can help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain types of cancers. For those of you trying to lose weight, increasing intake of fruits and vegetables will help keep you full for fewer calories.
Adults should be consuming 1.5-2 cups of fruits and 2-3 cups of vegetables each day. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently reported that only one in 10 adults actually meet the federal recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake.
Food selection in white porcelain dishes

 2. Fiber

Adults should be consuming 25-40 grams of fiber from food each day to reap the benefits of this awesome nutrient.  Fiber can help you lower blood cholesterol levels, regulate your bowels, and can keep you full after meals for a longer period of time. Top food sources of fiber include:
Beans: Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more you…you get the picture. Depending on the type, one cup can contain roughly 15-19 grams of fiber.
Berries: Because of all the tiny seeds, berries pack a lot of fiber for very few calories. The amount depends on the berry, but can range from 3 grams of fiber per cup of strawberries to 8 grams per cup of raspberries or blackberries.
Popcorn: Popcorn is considered a whole grain food and contains 4 grams of fiber for every 3 cups of popped popcorn you consume.
Sweet peas: Sweet peas are fantastic as a side dish or can readily be thrown into soups, stews, and casseroles. One cup of these tasty green veggies contain 14 grams of fiber.
Leafy greens: While you may not get muscles like Popeye, one cup of cooked spinach or other leafy greens can get you 4-5 grams of fiber.
These are not the only top sources. Adding nuts and seeds, vegetables like brussels sprouts and broccoli, and squash to your diet will also help you up the fiber content of your meals.
Various types of dairy products

3. Dairy

Dairy foods are a major source of the mineral calcium and vitamins A and D that are required for children to build strong, healthy bones and adults to help maintain their bone mass to prevent fractures and osteoporosis. It is important for children to consume appropriate amounts of calcium in their diets as their bones are growing, because once we reach adulthood our bones stop growing and strengthening. Adults and children over the age of one should consume 2-3 servings of dairy each day. One serving is equivalent to 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1.5 ounces of cheese, and 2 ounces of processed cheese.
Benefits beyond bone health include:
1. Cultured dairy foods, like yogurt, provide probiotics which can improve gut health
2. Low-fat dairy options have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
3. Dairy foods provide the calcium required for muscle contractions and nerve transmission in the body.
4. Dairy foods also pack a large protein punch and because they are a complete protein (meaning they contain all 9 nine essential amino acids) they can be readily used as an alternative to meat.
Salmon, spices and condiments

 4. Seafood

Seafood is a fantastic protein source with omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Just two, 4-ounce servings each week can have positive benefits for your health. While most seafood contain some level of omega-3’s, we find larger quantities in fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and albacore tuna.
Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential fatty acid that our bodies cannot make and therefore we must get them from food. They not only benefit our hearts, but have been shown to promote brain growth and development in infants and children. They are important for eye health and new research is being done now regarding omega-3’s and behavior.
Best wishes in the new year!

Jessica Barnes, PhD, RDN, LD

Dr. Jessica Barnes received her PhD in nutrition from Texas Woman's University. Her research focused on food preference development and creating materials to help preschoolers become familiar with healthy foods. She has worked with families and communities as a clinical and community Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

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