March is National Nutrition Month, and this year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is urging Americans to “Get Your Plate In Shape.” With the help of the “My Plate” model, which replaced the Food Pyramid in June 2011, the experts are giving us a reminder of the healthy nutrition goals we have heard before:
Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
Make at least half of your grains whole grains
Switch to fat-free or low-fat dairy
Vary your protein choices
Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars
So if we all know what to do, why do so many of us struggle not only to get our plates in shape, but also to keep them in shape? The problem for many of us is that we aren’t excited about making dietary changes, so we reluctantly begin following nutrition advice without a real plan.
Alternatively, if we take an active role in designing our own plates and developing our own implementation plans for change, we are setting ourselves up for the best chance of success. Here are a few tips to get started:
Analyze Your Plate: Take a look at what, when, and how much you eat every day (meals, snacks, and beverages included), and jot it down in a food journal. Consider the nutritional density of the foods you eat including the amount of carbohydrate and fiber, fat (including saturated or trans fat), protein, sodium, added sugar, and vitamins and minerals. Also make note of how you feel after each meal or snack (too full, still hungry, etc.).
With this information in front of you, you can identify the good food choices you make, as well as the choices that can be improved to create a more balanced nutrition plan that better meets your needs.
Redesign your Plate: There are plenty of generic diet plans created by magazine writers and celebrity trainers that will tell you exactly what to eat every day, but you are in the best position to decide what healthy foods work for you.
For example, your diet plan may tell you to have a spinach salad for lunch (a rich source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and Iron), but if you’d rather choke down tar than eat it, it’s not going to make you healthier. Following a diet plan that isn’t for you leaves you feeling frustrated and much more likely to cheat. Instead, consider consulting a doctor or personal trainer to help you design your plate, but make sure that you are the one in charge!
Adjust Your Plate One Item At A Time: Choosing specific, measurable, and manageable goals that you can accomplish in sequence may lead to to greater success than redesigning your plate all at once. For example, start by adding a one-cup serving of vegetables to every meal (as opposed to saying, “I need to eat more vegetables”). The following week, keep the vegetables that you found satisfying, and try adding some healthier protein options.
Another approach is to take a few of the traditional meals you eat often and determine how to make them just a little bit healthier. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new foods or preparation methods. Over time, this methodical approach to change will help you meet your nutritional goals, and you may actually enjoy the process!
What dietary changes have you made in the past that you still stick to today? What changes are you working on now?
Last week the results of a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics disproved the belief held by many parents that playing “active” video games like Wii Fit and Dance Dance Revolution could increase their kids’ activity levels. However, before you throw away your Wii Fit systems and go back to the drawing board, let’s take a look at the study to determine whether video game fitness really is too good to be true.
Here is a quick recap of the study:
Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX gave Wii consoles to 78 kids (ages 9-12 and above average weight).
Half the kids were given their choice of two “active” games (e.g. Wii Sports) and the other half were given their choice of two “inactive” games (e.g. Super Mario Galaxy).
Kids’ activity levels were measured for 13 weeks using an accelerometer (a motion-measuring device) worn on the belt.
Accelerometer logs showed that throughout the study period, kids with the active games didn’t get any more exercise than those given inactive video games, with both ranging between 25-29 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity each day.
Initial responses from researchers, doctors, and lay readers have noted the following issues with the study methods and conclusions:
Accelerometers have been shown to monitor activity accurately, however, the location of the accelerometer can impact what movement is actually recorded. For example, an accelerometer on a kid’s belt may not be able to pick up all of the motion generated by the upper body in a boxing game.
Actual game time logged was not recorded.
Other “active” game systems such as “Kinect” involve more full-body interaction than the Wii.
Fitness games aren’t interesting enough to hold a kid’s attention.
So maybe kids’ playing time just needs closer monitoring, or kids need a different game system, or to play different games. But would that really make a difference in the results? Perhaps the problem lies in the expectation that playing an active game would make a child more active.
Kids need help developing a healthy, fit lifestyle. Giving a kid a Wii remote is not going to promote a lifestyle change, and I would argue that just giving a kid a soccer ball or a pair of tap shoes won’t do it either.
Most kids need a little encouragement and coaching from family and friends to get active. Team sports, dance classes, and playtime (riding bikes, skating, playing tag, etc.) are fun activities that incorporate interactivity. Creating opportunities for interactivity with parents, siblings, and friends is one of the best ways to guarantee that kids, and families as a whole, are reaching the recommended levels of daily activity.
In other words, I wonder if a family Dance Dance Revolution tournament would be more likely to turn into a Dance Dance Marathon?
Courtesy of wii.gamezone.com
What do you think? Can video games still be part of the solution to keep kids healthy? What is the best way to encourage kids to develop a healthy lifestyle?