Proper nutrition is vital to the emotional and physical wellbeing of each and every one of us. If you polled a thousand people in America and asked them what some of the leading causes of death are, most people would not have food in that list.
But it’s true. One of the leading causes of death in America is poor nutrition. The problem is compounded by the troubling fact that sick people are less likely to make or have access to healthy meals.
As a member of the Board of Trustees at God’s Love We Deliver, I see how those who are ill desperately need proper nutrition, and how transformational the right foods can be when customized for every diagnosis. The “Food Is Medicine” solutions utilized by a variety of organizations, agencies, and platforms promote better well-being, reduce health care expenses, and close socio-economic food and drug disparities.
Many people just don’t understand that one of the reasons that Americans are so sick has to do with food and nutrition. After so many years of being involved in the effort to cook and distribute nutritious meals, I know the answer is set squarely in front of us, at least three times a day, on our tables, on our plates, and in our cups.
But what can the typical American do to make better food choices and to fuel their body in a healthy way? Here are just a few ideas for making your choices matter every day.
Making Small Changes Matter
You don’t have to fully overhaul your entire diet to start to feel and look better. Think about a few changes and implement them slowly. If you can reduce your intake of sweetened drinks and drink more water, it will really make a difference in your sugar intake. If you really miss the carbonation, opt for seltzer with a lemon wedge. Try to eat more whole grain foods. Swap white rice for brown rice; pick whole-wheat bread instead of white bread; add barley, quinoa, or oats to soups; or try replacing half of the white flour in any recipe with whole wheat, oat, or spelt flour options.
Know What You Need
No two nutritional programs are the same, and no two people are the same. Every person has their own dietary needs. Discuss a medically-tailored meal plan with your physician and licensed nutritionist. When your food matches your medical diagnosis, you are more likely to feel better (and sooner) and the benefits from your medications will be maximized.
Make Eating Special
Many of us are so rushed in the course of our day that we grab food for the car, eat while standing at the counter and gobble down whatever we can find. It’s not easy to slow down, but if you’re able to eat your meals at a table and to appreciate your food more, you may actually find yourself eating less and being less stressed. When possible, set the table nicely, put out a placemat or tablecloth and really allow yourself to appreciate and enjoy the food.
Eat with Others
It’s more fun to eat with other people and to see food as an extension of something larger – family, friends and colleagues. Many people who overeat do so in hiding or when eating by themselves. Enjoy time with other people and try to add some more social aspects to your meals to normalize your eating and to add emotional connections to your day.
If you are too ill to shop or cook for yourself, reach out to God’s Love We Deliver, or organizations like it, that deliver customized meals to those in need. Food and nutrition shouldn’t occupy the majority of anyone’s day or headspace. Rather, food should be the base upon which to build a rich and emotionally healthy life.