THE BLOG

Choice and Information Are Key to Better Health

04/11/2013 11:42 am ET | Updated Jun 11, 2013
  • Sylvia E. Meléndez-Klinger Registered dietitian, certified personal trainer, nutritional consultant and founder of Hispanic Food Communications

National Nutrition Month just ended, and your head might be spinning with all of the information flying around about what's good for you and what's not. And in the Latino community, choosing between what's healthy and what's familiar can be an even bigger struggle.

Latinos bear one of the heaviest burdens of obesity in the country. So, now more than ever, developing healthier habits is important. It will take a little bit of re-programming, some planning and whole lot of patience. It will also require access to the right information, nutrition education and learning to practice moderation. As you look to the rest of the year, use information to choose what works for you and your family.

Here are a few tips for getting the information you need, deciding what works for you and how to adjust your current habits to get you on the path to better health.

More Isn't Always Better: In today's world, you have to work to create a "moderate portion size" when serving food. If you're not being active, larger portions can add extra calories and weight. While saying no to a plate full of abuelita's most delicious platillos is easier said than done, it's important to watch your intake. I encourage you to still have your favorites, but try eating half now and saving the rest for later. If you've been served a large helping, stop eating when you are satisfied or feel full and take the rest home or share with someone else. And remember to treat yourself from time to time.

Information Is Power: The first step to making better choices is to gather all the right information. Today more than ever, there are many Spanish-language resources that offer important information such as what your plate should look like (Mi Plato), the calorie count of some of your favorites like soda, and types of physical activity which will burn off what you're eating.

It's All About Choice, Variety and Balance: A healthy mind and body needs foods from each of the food groups. What's more, we need a variety of foods from within each food group to have optimal health. We always hear that we need to eat more fruits and vegetables. But think beyond carrots and move to jicama, plantains and yucca! It's important to limit unhealthy fats (saturated and trans fats) in exchange for heart healthy fats like avocado, raw nuts and salmon. And when cooking, try seasoning food with more garlic, onions, different herbs and spices and even lemon and lime juice instead of salt.
 
Move Those Hips: Make a habit out of exercising. Moving for a half hour each day can make a difference. Make that half hour fun - do the salsa in front of the stove while cooking dinner, play with your kids outdoors for a few minutes or walk to do your errands . Regular exercise makes your heart and bones stronger and helps maintain a healthy weight. Here is a new video from Coca-Cola that shows how you can burn off calories while enjoying fun, every day activities.

Changing your habits won't be easy. But that doesn't mean that it has to be hard. Make small changes, still enjoy your favorites in moderation, remember every day is a new one and have fun in the process.

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