If you want your body to perform the best, you need to give your body the best fuel possible! Being healthy means taking care yourself and that includes what you eat and drink. Haven’t you heard you are what you eat? Here at iknowmine we understand eating healthy during the teen years is challenging – late night snacks and binges, hanging out with friends and eating greasy goodness – we get it! We also know that you can enjoy these foods in moderation or every now and again. That’s why it’s called treating yourself. Knowing which foods to eat and how much to eat, can be a fun learning experience that lasts a lifetime. Balancing your nutrition (what you eat and drink) with fitness (exercise) means you’re on the right track to a healthy lifestyle. Keeping a good balance is an important factor to having the right fuel for your body!
Did you know? In 2010, 24.3% of high school students drank a can, bottle, or glass of selected beverages one or more times per day.
A part of nutrition is portion and knowing what to put on your plate. A great tool for learning how to eat right is MyPlate. In 2011, the MyPyramid was replaced with Myplate. MyPlate can help you understand what kinds of foods and how much to have on your plate. The main food groups are: protein, grains, fruits, and diary* and vegetables. Each food group offers your body a different type of fuel and every body needs all these different types of fuel to work! (*Some people are lactose intolerant, so non-dairy foods that are rich in calcium replace this group, like soymilk or almond milk. Some dark green vegetables like broccoli or kale can be a better source of calcium than milk!)
Portion control is something we all must learn and measuring your portions is essential. A helpful thing to remember when choosing your portions (how much food you should be eating) is a trick called, “It’s all in the hands!” Here’s how to measure the different food groups using your hands. No matter if your hands are large or small, you’ll be able to find the right portion for your body.
For fruits and vegetables, two hands cupped together represent how much to put on your plate.
For protein, like delicious steak, moose, caribou, chicken, and tofu (a soy protein) the size of the palm of your hand is how big of a piece of protein should be on your plate.(The thickness of your pinky is how thick your piece of protein should be.)
For grains and carbohydrates, the size of your fist is how much grains/carbohydrates you should have on your plate.
If you’re curious what types of foods fit into the different groups, check out this list. Maybe you’ll find a new, healthy snack.
Any type of meat like: moose, caribou, seal meat, whale meat, walrus meat, fish of all types, beef, chicken, nuts, beans, and some types of grains, such as quinoa, barley, and bulgar. Traditional animals are also a great source of protein
Fruits and vegetables
When thinking of what types of fruits and vegetables to eat, try to remember the more colorful your selection of fruits and veggies, the better. Picture all colors of the rainbow.
Some examples of fruits are blueberries, cranberries, salmonberries, bananas, apples, oranges, pineapple, grapes, kiwis, peaches, pears, and more! Examples of vegetables are lettuce, spinach, wild celery, beach greens, broccoli, seaweed, and more!
Don't overcook your vegetables, this damages the vitamins that are held in the plant's cells. There's a common misconception that if you cook vegetables to make a broth, you've got all the nutrients in the broth; not true!!
Tip: Sometimes we can get in the rut of eating a lot of soups or ramens. To cool down your soup, add some frozen green beans, peas, or broccoli after your soup's done to boost your vitamin intake without overcooking the vegetables.
If you can't have fresh fruit all the time, beware fruits that come packaged in syrups. Instead, go for the kind that is packaged in water. If it's packaged in juice, that's okay, but it's got a higher sugar content than fresh fruit or fruit packed in water would.
Bread made with white or wheat flour, cereals, sugar, and starches like corn, potatoes, and peas. French fries are a part of this group!
It is important to keep the amount of carbohydrates you consume to a minimum. Carbohydrates break down into sugar in your body which is used as energy and will be stored as fat. Also, carbohydrates affect blood sugar levels, which is really important to watch if you're diabetic or hypoglycemic.
Did you know there are differences in the types of flours? Two of the more common flours are white wheat flour and whole wheat flour. White wheat flour is quickly turned into sugar in the body and whole wheat flour which contains all-natural oils, and takes longer to be broken down into sugar. Whole wheat flour is better choice for your body because it keeps your energy levels high for longer and can make you feel fuller. Some people’s bodies can’t handle wheat (whole or white), this is more common in Native bodies. Alternatives to wheat are barely flour, rye flour, coconut flour, corn flours, tapioca flour, and more.
Don’t be fooled by the packaging! Some bread labels may say “whole wheat” and if you check the ingredients list there is enriched wheat flour. Enriched wheat flour is similar to white flour because the natural oils have been removed to allow for a longer shelf life. When the natural oils are removed the nutritional value or “healthiness” is decreased. Enriched wheat flour means that nutrients were added back into the flour during or after processing, but that doesn't mean that fiber was added back in, which is the part that keeps you full and "cleans" your insides.
Breads made with whole-wheat flour rank higher in fiber (this keeps digestion flowing!) because wheat bran and wheat germ (where all the nutrients are on the plant) have not been removed. Some bread may try to trick to you by saying “multigrain” or “oats” - getting you to believe it is healthy, but that is not always the case. It is required by law that companies put “100% Whole Wheat” when bread is really made with whole-wheat flour. So remember to read the labels! The healthiest breads are ones that have more than 3 grams of fiber per serving on the label.
Look for breads with high levels of fiber. Fiber is an essential part of your diet. Fiber is not digested but helps your digestive system stay in good health and to keeps your intestines on track. Lots of other foods have high fiber, higher than bread. One example is apples; apples have lots of fiber (from the skin), so eat up, don’t get stopped up.
There are two types of fiber:
- Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. Sources of soluble fiber are oats, legumes (beans, peas, and soybeans), apples, bananas, berries, barely, some vegetables, and psylluim (chia seeds).
- Insoluble fiber increases the movement of material through your digestive tract and increases your stool (poop) bulk. Sources of insoluble fiber are whole wheat foods, bran, nuts, seeds, and the skin of some fruits and vegetables. Like fiddlehead ferns (cetuguar – Yu’pik), fireweed (Ciilqaaq – Yu’pik, Lóol – Tlingit, Cillqaqtaq – Alutiiq, Pamiqtaq – Iñupiaq), goosetongue (Nutaqitlila – Dena’ina, Sutéitl), seaweed (Elquaq – Yup’ik, Laak’ásk – Tlingit, Qahngux – Unangam Tunuu), and more.
- Replace white rice with brown rice and white bread with whole-wheat bread
- Choose a whole-grain breakfast cereal
- Limit consumption of foods with labels that say “enriched wheat flour”
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Choose whole grains and high fiber carbohydrates.
- Choose lean proteins, low-fat or non-fat dairy and small amounts of fats and sugars.
- Portion control is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It’s easy to overeat when large amounts of food are at your fingertips.
- Avoid empty calories such as soda pop, juice, and sweetened drinks.
- Traditional foods are always better for you.
Tips for keeping portions in check:
- Instead of eating chips out of a bag, put a serving size in a bowl or a small plastic bag.
- Eat dinners from a plate - keeping in mind protein servings should be about the size of a card deck and your plate should be half full of fruits and veggies.
- Eating more calories when we're really hungry is a common pitfall, so make a point to have regular meals throughout the day instead of one big one.
- Healthy snacks like peanut butter and apples or a handful of nuts and berries are great ways to carry you over until the next meal.
- Drinking 8 oz. of water 20 minutes before mealtime is a great way to eat fewer calories at your meals.
- Remember to eat slowly! It takes 15-20 minutes for your stomach to communicate to your brain that it is full, so wait before going for second helpings.
Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life
An increasingly common disease in American and Native youth is Diabetes Mellitus, or Type II Diabetes. The best way to avoid diabetes and other related diseases are to maintain a healthy weight, stay physically active, and eat the right portions of healthy foods.
Did you know? 36% of Alaska Native high school students were overweight or obese in 2011.
A good way to self-check if you’re at a healthy weight is to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI).
BMI calculator for kid and teens:
"Calories" is just the term used to describe the amount of energy a food or drink provides when you eat it. Think of calories as a measurement unit — like inches, pounds, or gallons. You need energy from foods and drinks to fuel your body — for everything from breathing to physical activity. But if your foods provide more energy than you use, your body stores the rest as fat. Remember to burn as many calories as you eat to maintain your healthy weight! Check out the importance of Physical Activity here!
Not all calories give you fuel for your body, some are called “empty calories”. These are foods and liquids that have no nutritional value, such as important vitamins or minerals your body needs. Examples of empty calories are juices (except for 100% fruit juices), soda pop, energy drinks, sweets (baked goods, candy, gum, etc), sweetened drinks (lemonade mix, sweet tea, powdered juice mix), and other junk food. For more information about empty calories, read on at Choose My Plate.