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Adopt a Healthy Eating Pattern

An IU Health North Hospital Release

—Have you ever thought about the foods you eat and drink as a pattern? This year, the federal dietary guideline updates aren’t just telling you which foods to eat (more veggies) and which to avoid (skip added sugar!), they’re also suggesting how to eat, with the help of a “food pattern.”

“Eating consistently throughout the day with 5-6 well-balanced meals keeps you from overwhelming or underwhelming your system before you get to the next meal,” says Judith LaMere, registered dietitian and diabetes educator at Indiana University Health North hospital. “Regularly eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats will keep you energized throughout the day.”

Building a Food Pattern

Healthy eating patterns are built on a foundation of nutritious foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat and fat-free dairy, lean meats and other protein foods and oils. Limited are things like saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars and sodium. These patterns are adaptable to fit your personal tastes, traditions, culture and budget. In fact, the latest federal recommendations offer a few suggested patterns such as a “U.S.-Style Eating Pattern” a “Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern” and a “Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern.” 

“Eating well becomes a habit. For people to go from eating sugary breakfast cereal to eating oatmeal and yogurt will take some new steps, but you can find healthy foods that taste good to you,” says LaMere. “So-called ‘diet’ foods are not necessary when there’s plenty in nature that you can take advantage of by just being patient with yourself and looking for the healthy foods that work well for you.”

Hold the Sugar

One food item the latest guidelines focus on limiting in your healthy food pattern is added sugars. These are the sugars and syrups added to foods or drinks and don’t occur naturally in the food. Typical examples of added sugars in American foods are cakes, soft drinks, ice cream and donuts. The guidelines suggest less than 10 percent of your daily calories should come from added sugars.

“The average person takes in about 1,800 calories a day so 10 percent of added sugar would equal about one can of soda,” explains LaMere. “I encourage my patients to cut out soft drinks entirely---that’s where they’re usually getting the lion’s share of added sugars in their diets. I know cutting out soda may sound difficult, but if you simply eat a balanced meal and have one brownie at dinner, for example, you’re going to stay within your calorie and sugar allotment while still enjoy variety.”

Adopt your Food Pattern 

Federal guidelines suggest adopting healthy eating patterns that include:

  • A rainbow of colorful whole fruits and vegetables, including dark greens, reds and oranges plus legumes.
  • Whole grains.
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy, which may include fortified soy beverages.
  • An assortment of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, nuts and seeds.
  • Oils, including plant-based: canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean and sunflower.

The latest dietary guidelines will affect most Americans, regardless of whether they implement the suggestions. Food policies, school nutrition and food labeling are all based on these recommendations. For more health and wellness information for the whole family, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @IU_HealthNorth.

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