By Patrice Powers-Barker, OSU Extension, Lucas County
The Truth Contributor
Dear friends, I know this is “easier said than done” but your health is worth it! I will not give a list of New Year resolutions for anyone to keep but I will keep encouraging you to choose small, healthy steps for yourself and your loved ones. The beginning of the year is a good time to reflect and redirect. As you consider personal resolutions or smart goals, keep them simple. You are worth this success.
One hopeful thing that has been shown through the pandemic is that our small, positive, actions can make a positive difference. An article titled, First Things First: Parent Psychological Flexibility and Self-Compassion During COVID-19, highlighted that “small things matter” and our daily patterns matter.
Although this 2020 article was focused on parents and interactions with their children, the principles apply to many other parts of our lives. They say that large, long-term goals like, “getting in shape,” “eating a healthy diet,” and “being a better parent” can be overwhelming. Small choices like, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, eating the apple instead of the cookie, and stopping to kiss a child on the head are smaller steps that add up.
Research has shown that small reductions in sugar, small nurturing social interactions and just a little more sleep can add up to big differences in our overall health.
This article also shows that doing things perfectly is not as important as our overall patterns. We do not have to make perfect New Years’ resolutions. They state: A doughnut on occasion has little health impact. Doughnuts all day, every day, on the other hand, may be problematic. Often, we are not very aware of our daily patterns and habits. If we are honest about our unhealthy behaviors we then can make small changes and benefit over time.
I like using the term “guidelines” because they are not hard and fast rules. They offer a suggested pathway for us to make healthy choices. I don’t have to be a registered dietician to try to put the Dietary Guidelines into practice in my life for the best benefits of healthy food choices. As mentioned above, our small, daily choices can add up to larger, longer-term results.
Research has shown that each step we take to match up with the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines is linked to a:
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Lower risk of cancer
- Lower risk of obesity
- Lower risk of hip fracture
Six in 10 adults live with one or more diet-related chronic diseases. People living with diet-related chronic conditions and diseases are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. For friends who are reading this list and might already be living with one or more of these chronic diseases, eating healthy can also be used to help manage our health and wellness. Following these recommendations cannot guarantee a life free of health problems but it can help reduce our risks. The following reminders are four key points from the Dietary Guidelines.
First, choose healthy food that meet your personal tastes, traditions, and budget. Second, make healthy food choices at every age. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, and the youngest you’ll ever be again.” It is never too early or too late to improve food and beverage choices, and to establish a healthy dietary pattern. For younger family members and friends, the goal is to help them learn and adopt healthy food choices at a young age for the benefit of their entire life. Establishing healthy eating early in life may be beneficial over the course of decades. For older people (remember, all of us are the oldest we’ve ever been), making different choices now can benefit our health now and into the future.
Make it a goal to eat healthy foods and drinks from all five food groups. Remember, this is a guideline, not a complicated rule. Use suggestions and ideas of how to make this work for you from each of the food groups: fruit, vegetables, grains, protein foods (meat and beans), and dairy. Food choices from within all five food groups are the building blocks for a balanced diet to help your body get the nutrients it needs. Lastly, think through foods and drinks that are high in added sugars, fat, sodium, and alcohol. Like the example before with the doughnut – it doesn’t mean you can’t ever have it but make sure it fits into your overall healthy patterns.
Welcome to 2022. Here’s hoping it will be a year of new discoveries, healthy opportunities, and lots of small steps to a healthy year.