Editorial: Making healthier food choices bite by bite

  • Posted: 3/16/2013 4:51 PM
    6/1/2013 5:55 PM

These days it seems like every day and every month has some sort of commemoration.

The month of March is the Irish-American Heritage, Craft, Celery, Peanut, Women's History and Red Cross Month.

It is also National Nutrition Month.The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics urges people to eat healthier and to return to the basics by eating items that are not processed. This year, the theme is about the advantages of developing a healthy eating plan that incorporates individual food choices and preferences.

According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, 66 percent of adults were either obese or overweight in South Carolina as of 2009. Though the data is three years old, SCDHEC maintains that the information still is a reflection of the population in the state.

In that time, the state also had the 14th worst overweight or obesity rate in the nation. Of those South Carolinians who are overweight or obese, 37.5 percent have high blood pressure, 11.7 percent have diabetes and 5.1 percent had coronary heart disease. Aiken County's percentage of adults consuming five or less daily servings of fruits or vegetables, while lower than the state's 82.6 percent, still sits at 80.7 percent.

Cynthia Catts, RD, LD and a medical nutrition therapist, said, "I think a big reason we are overweight is that we do not take care or take time with our eating decisions," she said. "Most of my clients rely on convenient, microwaveable or ready to eat foods that are highly processed. Highly processed foods contain all kinds of synthetic ingredients that the body spends a lot of time and energy fighting with. I work with people to get back to the basics of cooking and preparing meals and snacks from real whole foods. It takes more time and effort ... but has great health benefits."

The epidemic also spreads to youth, as one in every three high school students is overweight or obese. It is even more prevalent among black high school students, at almost 40 percent. Studies also have shown that 70 percent of overweight or obese adolescents will continue that trend into adulthood.

One of the most common excuses Catts said she hears is about the high cost of healthy food or simply not having enough time to invest in healthy eating.

"When people complain about the high cost of healthy food, I suggest they (compare) their more expensive groceries to ... health insurance. It is far cheaper to buy good quality groceries than to pay the doctor, pharmacy or surgery bills," she said.

"In general, people need to shift their thinking when it comes to where, why and when they eat. A different approach would help people to eat rather than diet. Being mindful of every bite of every meal and snack helps people to slow down, appreciate their food and recognize when they are no longer hungry."

New Year's resolutions have likely come and gone, but, with the increased awareness this month, there is no better time to make a healthier change for the better. The changes are usually difficult at first, but it can prevent complications later in life and also serve as an example to others.