Nutritional Health

Heart NutritionWhy is it important to reach a healthier weight? Reaching and maintaining a healthier weight is important to a person’s overall health and well being. If one is significantly overweight, there is a greater risk of the development of many diseases including high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some forms of cancer. For obese adults, even losing a few pounds or preventing further weight gain has health benefits.

Reaching a healthier weight is a balancing act. The secret is learning how to balance one’s “energy in” and “energy out” over the long run. “Energy in” is considered the calories from the foods and beverages taken in each day. “Energy out” is the calories burned for basic body functions and physical activity. Nutrient-dense forms of foods are smart choices – they provide the nutrients needed with relatively fewer calories than other choices in the same food group. To move to a healthier weight, one needs to make smart choices from every food group. Smart choices are the foods with the lowest amounts of solid fats or added sugars: for example, fat-free (skim) milk instead of whole milk and unsweetened rather than sweetened applesauce. Also, consider how the food was prepared. For example, choose skinless baked chicken instead of fried chicken and choose fresh fruit instead of a fruit pastry.

Nutritional Health Interventions

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans , 2005, gives science-based advice on food and physical activity choices for health. What is a “Healthy Diet”? The Dietary Guidelines describe a healthy diet as one that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products;

Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.

The recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines and in ChooseMyPlate are for the general public over 2 years of age. ChooseMyPlate is not a therapeutic diet for any specific health condition. Individuals with a chronic health condition should consult with a health care provider to determine what dietary pattern is appropriate for them.

The ChooseMyPlate Web site provides information specifically for professionals, in addition to the content for consumers. USDA has released the ChooseMyPlate food guidance system. Along with the new symbol, the system provides many options to help Americans make healthy food choices and to be active every day. This guide will help you navigate through the new ChooseMyPlate system to educate consumers.

Social Issues & Nutrition Barriers

Food security is defined as “access at all times to a nutritionally adequate, culturally compatible diet that is not obtained through emergency food programs.” Food insecurity is highly correlated to income. The rate of food security for elders below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) was 22.6%, compared with 1.8% of those at 185% of the FPL. In addition, the rates of food insecurity were higher in minority groups, affecting 18.9% African-American elderly and 15.4% of Hispanic elderly. In comparison, the rate of food insecurity for white elders was 3.7%. However, despite the existence of federal nutrition programs for the elderly, only 40% of eligible household participate.

Congregate and home-delivered meals are available through Title III-funded nutrition programs. There is no means testing, although programs target low-income and disable seniors. Most elderly nutrition programs (ENP’s) will not turn anyone away for inability to pay, and there is generally a waiting list for home-delivered meals. The Administration on Aging estimates that 3.1 million elders participate in ENP and receive 40% to 50% of required nutrients through the programs.

Wellman , NS , Weddle, DO, Kranz, S, et al. Elder insecurities: Poverty, hunger, and Malnutrition. Journal of American Dietary Association, 1997;97;10 Suppl 2:S120-122.

Nutrition Resources

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

CDC Health Topics


UF/IFAS Extension

Florida Association of Food Banks has a food bank directory for all counties including Bread of the Mighty in Gainesville, FL.

USDA Nutrition

Nutritional Facts

  • Early indicators of atherosclerosis, the most common cause of heart disease, begin as early as childhood and adolescence. Atherosclerosis is related to high blood cholesterol levels, which are associated with poor dietary habits.
  • Overweight and obesity, influenced by poor diet and inactivity, are significantly associated with an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, joint problems, and poor health status.
  • Less than 40% of children and adolescents in the United States meet the U.S. dietary guidelines for saturated fat. 1
  • Osteoporosis, a disease where bones become fragile and can break easily, is associated with inadequate intake of calcium.

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