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Health Matters: You are what you eat

Striving to maintain a healthy lifestyle becomes problematic when factoring in issues such as accessibility and the amount of time required to procure and prepare healthier foods. Though Americans are bombarded with constant images and promotions to “eat right, get fit” and so on, in terms of providing its community with actual support to foster healthy eating habits, society is lacking.

Sophomore nursing student Anna Tai Owens said she thinks intentions to eat healthy varies on an individual basis.

“I think it fluctuates depending on the location and age of the individual,” Owens said. “Children and young adults are more easily influenced to eat poorly and if their parents don’t make healthy eating a priority, society surely isn’t going to help them out.”

Senior Political Legal & Economic Analysis (PLEA) International Relations major Emily Kaput agreed that society does not make fostering healthy eating habits a realistic goal for anyone.

“We [are suposed to] have three square meals a day: one in the morning, afternoon, and evening,” Kaput said. “This has no regard for our metabolism and its peaks and lows. Not to mention that the food that is most easily accessible is almost never the healthiest option!”

The majority of students are at least partially aware of how to choose foods that facilitate a healthy lifestyle, but how many of us are consistently making healthy diet choices?

Apparently not many, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 70 percent of Americans surveyed in 2000 claimed to eat “pretty much whatever they want.” This is a huge problem, especially taking into consideration our nationwide struggle with obesity.

62 percent of Americans today are overweight, a 14 percent increase from only 20 years ago.

Our society today is so focused on instant gratification that we often lose sight of the value in setting long-term goals to foster lifelong change.  We want to eat pizza and drink beer every day without concern for how it will affect out health in the future, yet once summer rolls around and we’re sporting an unsightly gut, we put ourselves in a dangerous position where skipping meals or severely restricting our diets is a common occurrence. Partially, our flawed eating patterns stem from society influencing us to do whatever we want, whenever we want.

On the flip side, maybe we don’t make the best choices because healthy food isn’t always accessible in our communities.

Regardless of how our eating patterns are today, there are some easy steps that we can take to increase the amount of essential nutrients we are taking in, while decreasing the amount of empty calories we eat.

First and foremost, in order to eat a wholesome, healthy diet, rich in all of the nutrients we thrive on, we need to be conscious of both what our body needs and what we are giving our body. The goal here is to be aware of how much and what you are eating and to find balance. You don’t need to adhere to a restrictive diet as long as you realize that you’ll have to eat a few more pieces of broccoli at dinner to cover for that ice cream you ate at lunch. Reading food labels is a simple way to check out the nutrition you will be getting from the food wrapped within.

Aim to have your total calorie intake be broken down into roughly 60 percent carbohydrates, less than 30 percent fat (with less than 20 percent coming from saturated fat), and 10 percent protein. Using an online resource, like My Fitness Pal ( or My Calorie Counter ( is a great way to track what you’re eating and to see if you have any nutritional deficiencies. If you’re still finding it hard to get everything you need, supplementing your diet with a multivitamin is a way to ensure that you are covering your bases, despite an
unbalanced diet.

Most importantly, eat what you like. While spinach salad is extremely healthy, if you don’t like spinach, it’s silly to force yourself to eat it! Make wise decisions that correlate with what your taste buds naturally crave. It’s much easier to stick with a pattern of healthy eating if you like what you’re feeding yourself.

Health Matters is written by the second-year nursing students participating in the Nursing Leadership Class.