According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of American adults have a chronic health condition, such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes. Even more concerning – one in four American adults have two or more chronic health conditions.
These numbers continue to increase as the years go by. One reason for this is we have proactive doctors who are catching disease and tracking it. But another reason is more people are becoming overweight or obese – a major risk factor for many types of chronic disease.
Today, dietitians are used in a much greater capacity when caring for patients with chronic disease. Our goal is to help people maintain a healthy weight to prevent disease from developing and, if it does, to manage it and prevent complications.
Achieving a healthy weight requires making lifestyle changes, not following a short-term diet. To get there, follow these tips:
- Switch the types of fat you eat. Replace saturated and trans fats with healthier types of fat that can be found in salmon, albacore tuna, nuts and avocados.
- Eat more vegetables and fruit. The average American eats only one serving of fruit per day and only 20 percent of Americans eat a serving of vegetables every day. These foods contain many important vitamins and nutrients and are high in fiber, which helps you feel full.
- Watch your portion sizes. A common myth is that just because a food is healthy, you can eat as much of it as you want. But eating too large of portions of anything can lead to taking in too many calories, sugar and sodium. Instead, figure out what the appropriate portion size is and make sure you stick with it.
- Reduce sodium and sugar intake. Reading food labels can help you reduce the amount of sugar and sodium you ingest.
- Eat fewer processed foods. This includes foods that are labeled natural or organic. Sometimes people assume just because a package of crackers says organic it means they’re healthy. But this isn’t always true. The best bet is to prepare foods at home as often as possible. For example, scrambled eggs, baked chicken breasts or mixed green salads are healthy meal options.
One thing to keep in mind is that even losing small amounts of weight can make a huge difference. For example, losing just 10 or 20 pounds can improve a person’s blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar counts. Seeing that type of progress often motivates people to lose even more weight and ultimately achieve better health.
To learn more, or to find a dietitian near you, reach out to your health insurance provider.