What Kind and How Much: Healthy Foods and Portions for Your Family

The foods we eat tend to change with the seasons based on what’s fresh and available and according to tradition. Summer is usually the time for lighter eating with plenty of fresh fruit and veggies, while cooler weather tends to be a time for heavier menu items. While it can be difficult to maintain a healthy diet 365 days a year, you can keep the whole family eating right every season by focusing on a balanced diet, controlling portion sizes, and minimizing sodium and carbohydrate intake. What’s more, you can do it while providing everyone with a variety of foods they enjoy and always look forward to eating.

Watch Those Portions

When it comes to portion size, bigger means better for Americans. Unfortunately, that also means elevated weight and cholesterol levels. Compare that with the French, who manage to stay slim and avoid many health problems associated with weight gain despite enjoying some of the finest foods on the planet, many of which are rich in cheeses and heavy cream sauces. In fact, just 7 percent of French adults are obese, compared to 22 percent of American adults.

How do the French do it? Portion size. There’s a major philosophical difference between the two cultures where portion size is concerned. A recent study found that portion sizes in Philadelphia restaurants were, on average, 25 percent larger than portions in Paris. When you consider the obesity problem in the US, it’s clear the “supersize me” ethos isn’t a great idea on a daily basis.

Actually, portion-size control is relatively simple. Instead of slicing off the biggest possible cut of meat, make sure it’s no larger than your fist. Keep carbohydrates (i.e. pasta, rice, etc.) to one cup per person, and fill half your plate with vegetables, which will keep you filled up without busting your trouser button.

Get Some Breakfast

Breakfast is truly an important meal. It provides the energy you need early in the day and keeps you filled up. Kids who eat breakfast every day are less likely to reach for unhealthy foods at lunch and throughout the day than those who skip it. A breakfast rich in protein and fiber will keep you operating at peak efficiency and give a boost to perform well at work or school.

Fruit de Mer

It means “seafood,” but it just sounds better in French. If you’re an American, chances are you’re not eating enough of it. At least not enough fish, according to a 2016 article in HealthJournal magazine, which reported that nine out of 10 Americans don’t eat enough fish. A US Department of Agriculture study found that 90 percent of Americans don’t meet the recommended allotment (two times a week) of fish and/or other seafoods. By contrast, Americans consume 101 pounds of red meat annually.

Consider Your Gut

Great gut health is conducive to overall health, for both mind and body. And research continues to show that if gut health is lacking, it’s going to reverberate through all your internal systems.
It doesn’t take much to create a healthy gut microbiome, and there are plenty of wonderful foods that can help get you there: Dark chocolate, yogurt, pickles, miso, raw cheese, sourdough bread and even almond milk! That’s just a few you can consider when planning family meals. By incorporating some of these gut-friendly foods into your daily diet,  your microbiome gets what it needs to keep your immune and digestive systems running and your weight and mood in check.

Eat Your Fruit and Veggies

It’s like you’ve always heard: Fruit and vegetables are essential to dietary health. Your body derives an abundance of healthful benefits from eating them on a regular basis. You get the fiber and vitamins you need, they help fight cancer because they’re rich in antioxidants, they’re good for your major organs, they help prevent diabetes -- the list goes on. If you’re not getting enough fruit and veggies, it’s in your family’s best interests to find ways to work them in every day.

Thinking through the kind of foods you eat as well as how much you eat is vital for maintaining a healthy body. Consider it a long-term investment in your health and that of your entire family.

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  • June 12, 2019
  • Kyisoe Yauk

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