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Healthy Eating Demystified

Healthy Eating, Demystified

Most people know they should “eat healthy,” but that could have different meanings. One person may think a salad is healthy, regardless of how many toppings and how much dressing it’s laden with. Another individual could go the opposite way and believe a 500-calorie daily diet is required for optimal health.

Ardith Friday-Hamm, Chief Clinical Dietician, and Emily Sylvester, Registered Dietician (both at Oroville Hospital) routinely encounter these misunderstandings.

“What people should think of is eating a wide variety of food, including a plant-based diet, which includes lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, lean meats, lean poultry, and lean seafood,” states Friday-Hamm.

Benefits of a Healthy Diet

Healthy eating does not go unrewarded. Benefits from eating as Friday-Hamm describes include lowered blood pressure, reduced risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, improved energy, boosted mood, and a healthy weight.

Specifically, the DASH Diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, emphasizes healthy food sources while eliminating red meat, sodium, and added sugars such as sweets, cookies, and candy.

Portions Matter

Our society has super-sized itself right into an obesity epidemic. Portion control is a critical part of turning that epidemic around. Friday-Hamm suggests following the MyPlate guidelines, with a fourth of your plate protein, a fourth starch, and the last half fruits and vegetables. Adults should base these guidelines on using a nine-inch plate and children seven inches.

Beware Fad Diets

There is no shortage of diets that promise you’ll get results. The low-carb/no-carb approach is a popular one, but Sylvester warns there’s more to carbohydrates than one might think. “Eating fewer carbs might produce weight loss, but including certain ones such as whole grains can promote a healthy weight and also lead to weight loss,” she remarks.

Healthy carbohydrates include whole grains, legumes, and vegetables—all of which contain essential fiber. Carbs considered “unhealthy” encompass foods processed with white flour and added sugars.

Another popular diet as of late is the Paleo diet, which involves high protein intake. Friday-Hamm explains this way of eating may produce benefits, but only if the protein sources are healthy. That is, you cannot eat bacon and steak at every meal and expect to achieve a healthier state. Instead, choose lean protein (poultry, fish) and make sure to get plenty of vegetables and legumes.

Exercise & Nutrition: The Power Duo

Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand. Unfortunately, only about 3-5 percent of adults are meeting the exercise recommendations. These guidelines call for 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity weekly—for example, a brisk walk or anything that raises your heart rate and makes you break a sweat but where you can still carry on a conversation. The second option is 75 minutes of vigorous intensity, such as jogging, swimming, or biking.

Strength training is also important for maintaining an overall healthy body, as is stretching and balance exercises. Friday-Hamm suggest resistance training two or three times per week and setting aside time for stretching one or two days per week.

Keep It Simple for Success

Research has proven time and time again the benefits of maintaining a healthy eating regimen in combination with regular physical activity. But, your approach doesn’t have to be scientific in nature. “I like to tell people, ‘keep it simple.’ Don't take all the information from your friends, from online,” advises Sylvester. “Go to a good source, like MyPlate, which is a great visual for understanding how and what you should be eating.”

**To listen to an interview with Ardith Friday-Hamm, Chief Clinical Dietician, and Emily Sylvester, Registered Dietician at Oroville Hospital, follow this link:

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