As Parish Nurse, one of my roles is “information-sharing and encouragement for optimal health and well-being.” Today’s topic is “Eating for Optimal Health.” What we know about healthful eating is informed by dietary recommendations that have changed numerous times over our lifetime. What we eat is personal and influenced by many other factors – including our food preferences, our food preparation skills, our living situation, and our finances. Additionally, pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, and young children have special needs, outside the scope of this article. Still, we all want to eat as healthfully as we can. So, I offer you this compendium of suggestions, based on the current literature:
- Buy organic and local, even grow some of your own food, if possible.
- Fill the kitchen with real food – the kind of stuff that grows in the ground, goes bad if not refrigerated, or has a limited shelf life.
- Avoid or dramatically minimize processed foods. That includes packaged snacks, commercial baked goods, processed meats, and pre-prepared meals.
- Eat the colors of the rainbow – from a wide variety of vegetables and fruits of intense colors (which indicate lots of good-for-you micronutrients).
- If you eat fish and seafood, favor wild-caught sources, rather than farmed, if possible.
- If you eat other meat, favor pastured or wild sources, rather than factory-farmed, if possible.
- Drastically reduce the amount of sugar you eat.
- Consider bringing a fruit or veggie plate, or a bowl of nuts, to coffee hour or meetings – instead of cookies or other sweets. (Yes, that’s my editorializing!)
Resources used here: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, 2008; The New Health Rules by Frank Lipman M.D. and Danielle Claro, 2014; and “The 6 Dietary Tips Patients Need to Hear From Their Clinicians,” Medscape, June 29, 2017.
– Ann Yeo, R.N., M.S.N., Parish Nurse