Unlike some other countries, the status of women in America is equal to men in terms of all grounds possible. They are extremely individualistic, independent and capable to succeed in different ventures of life. Though in comparison to 1990 statistics, in 2010 the American women are living a little longer but they are not in good health predominantly due to following a poor diet throughout. Due to regular low consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and higher intake of trans fat, sugar and processed foodstuffs, they are facing health challenges down the line. Let’s dive deeper into the current scenario for American women to provide them with the best dietary resolution in this article!
Onset of several chronic diseases, increased morbidity and reduced life quality amongst American women are due to the poor diet follow up as proved by the scientific evidences. In order to understand and quantify the role of diet in improving health, many researches have been devoted to the lifestyle of the women residing in America. Premature mortality, loss of memory and confusion or breakdown during simple life activities are all results of poor nutrition. Without having the prior knowledge about the profound impact that diet has on improving and elevating quality of life, it is impossible to implement healthy dietary patterns in one’s life.
A variety of considerations including convenience, economic standards, cultural habits and satisfaction in terms of psychological grounds are taken into account to make food choices by people. Developing the right attitude, behavioral changes, healthy eating practices and determination to change or modify overall habits is needed to choose a healthful diet and lead a healthy life. There has been a sudden shift or change in the meal pattern with increased snacking habits and higher proportion of food eaten outside from home inviting eating practices which majorly incorporates “hidden fat”.
Most of the American women assume “low fat diet” to be costly and less tasty in comparison, some confess of being confused and the rest erroneously believe that they have been following a healthy diet already and are stern with their own norms. Several attempts have been made to mould the food consumption patterns but that did not necessarily paved way for a balanced diet. Coping up with the recent time and acquiring higher education, women though have become familiar and approachable towards inculcating nutrition in their diet but are unable to bring a significant change altogether.
Here are few stats about Standard or Regular American Diet?
- Refined and processed foods serve 63% of America’s calories
- Animal based foods serve 25% of America’s calories
- Plant based foods serve 12% of the America’s calories
- Unfortunately, 6% of the plant-based calories which is half of the total amount comes from French fries which denotes that whole grains, health promoting fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds serves only remaining 6% of the plant-based calories to the Americans
Here is the ideal diet that should be consumed by the Americans instead –
- Vegetables – 5 servings per day including raw leafy greens, cut-up vegetables and vegetable juices.
- Fruits – 4 servings each day including whole or cut-up fruits, fruit juices and dry fruits.
- Dairy – 3 servings per day from fat free and low-fat milk and its products.
- Grains – 6 servings each day ranging from different varieties of whole grains.
- Poultry, meat and eggs – 2 to 3 servings per day from lean and extra lean meat and poultry products.
- Fish and other seafood : 2 to 3 servings per week preferably from oily fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Nuts, seeds and legumes : 5 servings per week from peanut butter, nuts or seeds, beans and peas.
- Oils and fats : 2 servings per day from unsaturated vegetable oils and light salad dressings.
A myriad of information and description from several studies denotes the comparison of American diet with the most recent USDA recommendations or the Department of Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines, leading to the conclusion that American Diets are not followed as per the standard or set guidelines. Lack of knowledge, belief & motivation, not implementing effective changes and considering health as just one negligible aspect of eating are the solid reasons for American women of not meeting the Dietary Guidelines. Unhealthy diets that are primarily high in fat, cholesterol, total calories, salt/sugar contributes to the leading causes of death in United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture or USDA published the Dietary Guidelines for Americans which summarizes the basic components jotted down as follows:
- Support recommended Dietary Guidelines: The recommended guidelines for American women states a number of facts to be followed with discipline. The daily nutrient intake and food allowances have a set standard that has to be met to produce efficiency and productivity in life. These guidelines act as a critical tool to opt healthier food choices and to lay the foundation of nutrition education and development. Try to stick to the guidelines closely for betterment of your overall health.
- Relish variety in foods while focusing on nutrient density and portion sizes: Meeting the needs of nutrients within calorie limits demands a wholesome variety of nutrient dense foods from all food groups within the recommended amounts. Even in one particular food group, variety in sub groups should be selected to provide the maximum combination of nutrients. They kick start your metabolism with positive health affects and avoids deficiencies from any nutrient in particular. When essential nutrients and beneficial substances in the foods are not diluted by the addition of artificial substances or added fats/salt/sugar/refined starches, they are termed as “nutrient dense” foods.
- Maintain optimum body weight consistently: With the course of time and age advancement, various phases in a women’s life including pregnancy, lactation, menopause disturbs weight maintenance causing several other disorders along with it. Losing weight and keeping it off or maintaining it in the long run calls for constant attention and hard work. Being conscious of your shape, evaluating your own dietary and exercising habits is immensely needed to keep a track on your weight which is the major parameter for an active and healthy lifestyle.
- Eat a balanced diet meeting all nutrients need: A balanced diet boosts energy, smoothly runs entire body functions and strengthens immunity. It subsides or prevents the risk of developing chronic diseases and functional deficiencies in the body. A diet balanced in all forms assists us to feel better, to defend you against foreign hazards and helps fighting stress. To take all the meals on time and in observed portion sizes with maintaining the ratio of carbs:protein:fats is the primary objective.
- Go for real food rather than processed ones: Real foods are loaded with real nutrients in large amounts that are naturally present in them. On the other hand, processed foods are loaded with sodium/sugar, are striped of fiber, contain nutrients in low amounts and promote overeating. Whole grains contain more fiber than refined starchy foods. It is digested slowly and helps us feel full for longer period of time. Moreover, they contain disease fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants which makes it more favorable to consume. Choose the cleanest whole grains that are least touched by processing including quinoa, oats, barley, buckwheat, brown rice, millet, bulgur (cracked wheat).
- Have sugar/salt/fats in moderation: The foods in recent era are loaded with added salt/sugar and trans fat to increase palatability and flavor. Around 350 calories per day is consumed by an American woman from added sugars found in sweetened beverages, breakfast cereals, flavored yoghurt or ketchup. American Guidelines suggests of consuming 10% calories less from the added sugars to avoid the higher chances of organs failure. Frozen and processed food products should be replaced with fresh ones to cut down the consumption of sodium in the diet as its toxicity can be poisonous to health. Habit of using table salt should be altered too. Artificial trans fats are created with the help of industrial process of adding hydrogen to vegetable oils to make them solid. It has got serious health consequences to cholesterol levels and heart. Always make sure to read the Nutrition Facts labels before purchasing any food material to keep yourself updated with the facts.
- Limit sweetened and alcoholic beverages and keep yourself hydrated with water: Soft drinks, energy drinks are all storehouse of sugar not required by the body. Water is the universal beverage which supports the overall healthy functioning of the body. Sugary beverages are found to be the largest contributor to calories leading to weight gain and providing zero nutritional value. Natural fruit juices with no or less sugar added can be consumed however eating fruits providing fiber should always be the first chosen option.
- Maintain an overall healthy eating pattern across the lifespan: To create and support eating patterns that are reliable and healthful, everyone and everything has a strong role to play. Keeping in consideration each detail regarding recommended guidelines and achievement of overall well being, you should try tagging yourself to these crucial habits.
Mentioned above are the pointers which if are followed consistently with dedication and efforts without any negotiation, women in America would lead a healthier life with fewer affability towards several disorders and diseases.
Don’t forget to stay power packed by exercising
To keep your health status active and fit, diet and exercise goes hand in hand. Physical exercise of moderate intensity should be practiced for at least 150 minutes per week or vigorous intensity exercises for 75 minutes per week by all women according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Also, strength exercising sessions should be practiced thrice a week keeping a gap of 48 hours for the muscles to recover and balance strengthening exercises should be performed each day. Muscles, bones and heart strengthening exercises involving all major muscle groups should be performed on regular basis too. Women who used to perform vigorous intensity exercises regularly should be under the guidance of a health care provider during the phase of pregnancy and lactation to get their physical activities monitored. Understanding the types of exercises appropriate for your current fitness level and health goals is important to reduce down the risk of injuries. Gradually over the course period these activities should be strengthened to meet the key objectives or guidelines.
A number of activities are lined up by USDA aiming to help the consumers improve their choices in daily food consumption and listed below are the instruments that USDA is putting in action:
1. Nutrition education and monitoring
Nutritional education efforts and challenges put by USDA face the prime difficulty in translating awareness into behavioral developments since it is known that dietary advices take considerable time and dedication to get converted to dietary habits. The skill to balance between the macro and micro nutrients while planning a meal and to recognize your own satiety levels in order to avoid over and under consumption has to be educated rigorously. Specialists in nutrition education must recognize that motivating population to attain dietary changes in the most pleasurable and feasible ways is the demand of the hour. Activities of nutrition education are included in several food assistance programs like the food stamp programmes and campaigns as planned by USDA as an attempt to improve the effectiveness and scope of overall nutrition in American population.
2. Nutrition labeling and dietary guidelines
Consumers interested to improve the healthfulness of their diet, nutrition labeling and set American dietary Guidelines are the starting point to their journey providing consistent advices of how to stay healthy. These Guidelines are reviewed and published after every five years to help imparting the most recent needed informations. Regulations make it mandate to update entire list of nutrients on the labels with standardized nutrient content and serving sizes. The major motto is to avail the information and to teach the consumers of using that information in the right way to put together an improved diet. Also, Federal Trade Commission is improving co-ordination to help reducing misleading advertisements generated by food manufacturers.
3. Improved nutritional content in Americans diet
In order to modify the types of foods and to improve the nutritional content of the meals, USDA is directing its efforts towards National School Breakfast and Lunch Programmes to serve the required diet. According to the recent regulations in America, school meals would be designed in a way that it will meet the requirements of children based on Dietary Guidelines where the American mothers play the most vital role. An option to adopt food-based menu and computerized detailed nutrient analyses would be applied for each week food cycle in educational institutions to provide a healthier nation to the youth. Request for additional funds and a cost cutting arrangement is being prepared by the USDA team to support training to the local meal providers in planning and preparing meals that are nutritious and appealing. Wise food choices to support longer and healthier life are also developed by National Media Campaigns transmitting relevant nutritional education.
4. Research efforts and improvement
Addressing nutritional priorities of the nation, World Health Organization and Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations is planning to forfeit the issues of both over and under nutrition in strict terms. Biomedical researches should be carried out and revised continuously to improve the understanding of diet mechanism affecting health and different nutrient interactions in the body. Economic analysis based on consumer eating patterns and cost benefits for various interventions provides information to use scarce resources in the best possible way. Effectiveness of research and policies are strengthening in the recent era taking the risk of lifestyle diseases and ever increasing health deteriorations into account.
Everything and everyone has a role to play. It becomes the responsibility of women who are more comprehensible to aware other women about the benefits of eating healthy in order to stay healthy. Make sure to surround yourself with people who motivate and support you endlessly in your journey and are open to adopt certain needed changes in themselves too. There are small yet effective steps that can be taken in everyday’s life by women at all age groups to come up with bigger changes: