Eating Well for Better Health

By Charlyn Fargo

June 15, 2018 5 min read

Lately, I've had several friends ask about the whether they should try the ketogenic diet. And others have asked about intermittent fasting. It seems every few months there is a new diet to try. Having been a dietitian for more than 20 years, I always go back to the tried and true — for a healthy lifestyle, eat a variety of foods in moderation. Don't stop eating any one food group — you need dairy, carbs, healthy fats and lean protein.

It's really that simple. The easiest tool to use at every meal is My Plate, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables, one-fourth lean protein and one-fourth whole grains and a glass of milk. The plate is smaller than a dinner plate to emphasize smaller portions. No Whole 30, no cut-out-dairy, no low carb. Just a variety of foods in moderation.

The Mayo Clinic agrees, although they turn My Plate into their own graphic of a Healthy Weight Pyramid. At the base of the pyramid are fruits and vegetables, then carbohydrates, then protein and dairy, then fats and at the very top, sweets. A circle in the middle reminds us to include daily physical activity.

Here are a few other tips for healthy eating, from the New Mayo Clinic Cookbook — to enjoy a full mix of foods that help fight disease, pick a variety of colors from the produce bin. For carbohydrates, the message is simple — the less refined a high-carbohydrate food, the betters it is for you. Many beans and legumes have so much protein that when they're on the menu, meat can step aside. Likewise, nonfat and low-fat dairy products, especially milk and yogurt, can help supply you with protein. Choose healthy fats such as avocados, olives, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. Used wisely, they can actually help prevent heart disease.

To put a healthy lifelong eating plan into place (not a diet you go on and off of, but a sustainable lifestyle), here are some practical ideas:

—Have at least one serving of fruit at each meal and another as snacks during the day.

—Switch from low-fiber breakfast cereal to lower-sugar, higher fiber alternatives.

—Lighten your milk by moving down one step in fat content — from whole to 2 percent or from 1 percent to skim.

—Cook with olive, canola or other vegetable oil instead of butter or margarine whenever you can.

—Choose coarse whole-grain breads switch to brown rice and experiment with whole-wheat flour when baking.

—Include at least two servings of vegetables at lunch and at least two servings of vegetables at dinner.

—Have fish as a main course at least twice a week.

—Serve fresh fruit for dessert.

—Replace soda and other high-calorie sweetened drinks with water or tea.

The bottom line is that healthy eating is difficult. Don't get confused by the gimmicks and false promises. Eating well for better health just needs a variety of foods in moderate portions.

Q and A

Q: I've seen ads online for appetite-suppressing supplements. What are these? Do they work?

A: There are many dietary supplements on the market that claim to reduce appetite or help you lose weight, but it's uncertain whether they are safe or effective. Unlike for drug companies, the Food and Drug Administration does not require supplement manufacturers to provide clinical trial date. However, there are prescription medications for suppressing appetite. They work by altering chemical and hormonal processes in the central nervous system, resulting in diminished appetite and elevated metabolism. The diminished appetite makes people consume fewer calories, while the elevated metabolism enables people to burn more calories. The FDA has approved a limited number of prescription appetite-suppressing drugs. They are appropriate only for short-term use (up to 12 weeks) because not many research studies have looked at their safety and effectiveness for long-term use. They may also have unpleasant side effects, such as dry mouth, constipation and elevated blood pressure. Appetite suppressants should only be used under supervision of a health care professional and in conjunction with dietary modifications and physical activity. —Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and a spokesperson for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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