Healthy Eating

The foods you eat affect your health, your energy level and the way you feel. Living in a state known for its famous Southern cuisine can make eating healthy a challenge, but following a nutritious diet doesn’t have to be complicated or tasteless. Small, nutritious changes can make a big impact in your overall health. Follow the guidance and tips below to start incorporating healthy eating into your lifestyle.

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Quick Tips to Get You Started

Small changes towards eating healthy start with balancing your food choices and controlling your portion sizes.   

  • Manage your calorie intake by monitoring portion sizes. This will allow you to continue to enjoy the foods that you love! Eating healthy should be something you can do for a lifetime, so completely eliminating any food or food group is not encouraged.
  • Eat across food groups and vary the healthy foods you eat to ensure that you are consuming the essential vitamins and minerals you need.
  • Try to get 5 fruit and vegetable servings each day.

See below for additional tips for the entire family!

What Does a Healthy Diet Look Like?

When it comes to eating, we all have different habits; some are good and some are not so good. A healthy eating plan does not mean you have to give up everything you enjoy. Below are some general tips to help you balance your food habits.
  • Eat more foods that are fresh, while limiting processed foods.
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. They contain essential vitamins, minerals and fiber that will help protect you from chronic diseases. Sweet potatoes, squash, eggplant, tomatoes, strawberries, blackberries, watermelon and satsumas are just a few delicious fruits and vegetables local to the South.
  • Choose 100% whole grains. They have been linked to lower risk for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Whole grains are the healthiest type of grain because they are a better source of fiber and other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium.    
  • Select lean or low-fat protein foods such as chicken, turkey and fish. Limit high fat meats, fried foods, ham, sausage and deli meats.
  • Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products.  
  • Choose healthy oils that are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil, grape seed oil and sunflower oil. Other foods that contain healthy oils include nuts, avocados, salmon, trout and tuna. Limit butter, margarine, shortening, lard, mayonnaise, creamy salad dressings, heavy creams and foods made with these products.  
  • Limit added sugar in foods and beverages.
  • Drink more water and consume alcohol in moderation if you do so. Moderate alcohol consumption is generally considered to be up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
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Weight Management

The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is to maintain a lifestyle that balances healthy eating and physical activity. You must balance the calories you consume from food and beverages with the calories your body burns daily. The energy you get from food and that you spend from activity does not have to balance exactly every day, but balancing energy over time will help you maintain a healthy weight now and in the future.

Weight Maintenance: Energy IN = Energy OUT
Weight Loss: Energy OUT > Energy IN
Weight Gain: Energy IN > Energy OUT

Resources:

To find additional local resources for healthy eating, visit the Well-Ahead Community Resource Guide

Cooking and Shopping

As Louisianians, we can all agree that our Cajun and Creole food is like no other. Our distinctive food and cooking traditions are known across the world. People from Louisiana say they "live to eat" and not that they "eat to live." We plan everything around the culinary seasons, which can make healthy cooking and eating a challenge at times. However, there are many ways to cook and still enjoy your favorite foods. View the links below to learn more on healthy cooking and shopping.

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Nutrition for the Entire Family

Healthy eating habits start at the family table. With a little planning you can make healthy food choices easier for the entire family. Remember, teaching healthy eating habits at an early age can last a lifetime.

Resources:

To find additional local resources for healthy eating or health-related events in your community, visit the Well-Ahead Community Resource Guide.

Special Diets for Healthy Living

Making healthy food choices can make a major impact in managing heart disease and diabetes or in protecting your oral health. Talk with your healthcare provider to see if one of these diets may be a good fit for your lifestyle. 

Diabetic Diet

The key to preventing and/or managing diabetes is eating a balanced, healthy diet along with regular exercise. We all know one diet does not fit all. However, there are three important components of every eating plan to remember when trying to control blood sugar. 

  • Eat about the same amount of food at each meal or snack.
  • Eat meals and snacks regularly (at planned times).
  • Choose healthful foods most often and limit added sugar to support a healthy weight and heart.
Resources:

To learn more about diabetes prevention and management click here

Hypertension Diet

When you have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, it's important to pay close attention to your diet. Staying aware of portion size, eating a variety of foods and getting the right amount of nutrients can help lower your blood pressure.

 

The trick to staying healthy with high blood pressure is monitoring your salt intake. Always choose low sodium or no salt added options. Limit salt to 2,300mg or less per day. Most of the sodium in our diets come from pre-packaged, processed, restaurant and fast foods. Try to limit these types of food:

 

 Pre-Packaged Foods Processed Foods Condiments Count, Too!
  • "instant" or "just add water" items
  • chips, crackers & cereal
  • canned soups, sauces & broths
  • frozen dinners & pizzas
  • baking mixes
  • white bread & pasta
  • deli meats
  • sausage, bacon & boudin
  • pickled items
  • soy sauce & worcestershire sauce
  • ketchup & BBQ sauce
  • Tony Chachere's seasoning
  • gravy
  • salad dressings

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Mediterranean Diet

A Mediterranean diet pattern recommends a high consumption of  fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, fish and healthy fats. These particular foods are packed with nutrients that support a healthy heart, promote a healthy weight, and boost  mental health as we age.

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Healthy Teeth and Gums

Good nutrition is essential in the development and protection of oral health. Maintaining a proper diet from childhood helps sustain healthy teeth and gums. Foods high in carbohydrates and added sugars can contribute greatly to tooth decay and enamel breakdown. To learn more about proper nutrition for oral care visit the links below.  

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    Healthy Recipe of the Month: Mediterranean Diced Salad
    This salad is full of color and is a great source of fiber.