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Shelly Barnes: Make healthy choices for a New Year and a new you

Shelly Barnes • Jan 2, 2018 at 9:17 PM

You feel younger when you feel good. Eating well and being physically active are the keys to feeling your best. Whatever your age, your daily food choices can make an important difference in your health and in how you look and feel. Eating well promotes health, provides energy and affects weight. 

• Promotes health:  Reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bone loss. It helps control high blood pressure, lowers high cholesterol and manages diabetes. It provides the nutrients needed to keep your muscles, bones, organs and other parts of your body healthy throughout your life. These nutrients include vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fats and water. 

• Provides energy: It helps you feel energetic. The number of calories needed depends on how old you are, whether you’re a man or woman, your height and weight and how active you are. 

• Affects weight: Consuming the right number of calories for your level of physical activity helps you control your weight, too. Extra weight is a concern for older adults because it can increase the risk for diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease and can increase joint problems. 

Eating more calories than your body needs for your activity level will lead to extra pounds. 

If you become less physically active as you age, you will probably need fewer calories to stay at the same weight. Choosing foods, which have a lot of nutrients but relatively few calories, gives you the nutrients you need while keeping down calorie intake. 

• Food choices affect digestion: Your food choices also affect your digestion. For instance, not getting enough fiber or fluids may cause constipation. Eating more whole-grain foods with fiber, fruits and vegetables or drinking more water may help with constipation. 

• You can start today: Whatever your age, you can start making positive lifestyle changes today. Eating well can help you stay healthy and independent – and look and feel good – in the years to come. 

• Small changes make a big difference: Eating well isn’t just a “diet” or “program” that’s here today and gone tomorrow. It is part of a healthy lifestyle that you can adopt now and stay with in the years to come. 

To eat healthier, you can begin by taking small steps. For instance, you might: 

• take the salt shaker off your table. Decreasing your salt intake slowly will allow you to adjust. 

• eat fruits for dessert or snacks. 

• switch to whole-grain bread. 

• eat more seafood. 

• include vegetables with lunch and dinner. 

• drink milk with your meals. 

These changes may be easier than you think. They’re possible even if you need help with shopping or cooking or if you have a limited budget. 

• Check with your doctor: If you have a specific medical condition, be sure to check with your doctor or registered dietitian about foods you should include or avoid.

UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state and provides equal opportunities in all programming and employment. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.

For more information on this or other family and consumer sciences-related topics, contact Shelly Barnes, family and consumer sciences Extension agent for UT Extension in Wilson County. Barnes may be reached at [email protected] or 615-444-9584.

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