When it comes to the American diet, the question usually is, “are you eating too much,” with the focus is on eating less, reducing calories and fat, and making healthy choices.
But for a number of Americans, the question isn’t about eating too much, but rather, eating enough. The concern here isn’t whether your tummy is growling after missing a meal, but rather, whether you are eating enough to sustain and fuel a healthy body and mind. Here’s what you need to know to be sure you are eating enough.
Getting enough energy
Growing children and active teens and adults need fuel to keep going. A high activity level is good for overall health, but not getting enough calories can affect growth, prevent muscle and cognitive development, and lead to fatigue, inattention, and other problems.
Fueling Your Day
It’s not uncommon for Americans to skip breakfast or grab a coffee and muffin. But that octane may be too low for a long busy day. If you have a hectic schedule that precludes even a quick bowl of cereal and milk, prepare a “breakfast on the go” pack the night before. A yogurt, a container of granola or whole cereal, a piece of fruit, or even a slice of whole grain bread spread with peanut butter or jam can be eaten as soon as you get to work. Having a good breakfast jump starts your day, as well as your metabolism!
Getting sufficient nutrition from calories
Eating more calories is a start to getting enough energy, but empty calories from junk food or sugary or salty processed foods may do more harm than good. Choosing fresh fruits and vegetables and proteins, along with complex carbohydrates including sweet potatoes and beans, provides you with healthy, nutrient-dense food. Think of it: you could have one apple fritter or a bushel of apples of calories but without the fat. Plus, with a little creativity, you can maximize your healthy calorie comprised of satisfying meals and snacks that include whole grains, fruits and vegetables (to include the nutritional powerhouse, avocado), with yogurt and cheese as good sources of protein. For vegetarians or vegans, nuts and nut butters can provide energy and a good protein source, too.
Risk factors for not eating enough
- Age. As we age, our ability to digest foods and even to chew and swallow decreases. This can lead to older adults avoiding nutritious foods. Maintaining good dental health and learning how to cook foods so that they are palatable for older adults is very important. Liquid supplements can provide essential vitamins and minerals for those who cannot manage meal preparation on their own.
- Medical conditions. For those who suffer from digestive or food absorption disorders, such as celiac disease or lactose intolerance, nutritional deficiencies might be more likely to occur. If you have a diagnosed condition, or if you have questions or concerns about your ability to digest and metabolize nutrients, make an appointment to see your doctor.
- Previous surgery. Bariatric and other weight loss surgeries can affect your ability to absorb nutrients. If you have had weight loss surgery that works by bypassing part of your digestive tract, you should be taking specific supplements to ensure your body is absorbing what is being bypassed in the foods you take in.
The best way to ensure your nutritional health is to do your research and talk with an expert. Visit reputable resources, especially governmental online sites that provide recommended caloric intake guides. Nutritionists can tell you exactly what your personalized needs are, given your age, medical history, and activity levels. If you have had weight loss surgery or are under a physician’s care be sure to maintain an ongoing dialogue about getting enough of the right stuff to eat.
If you’re seeking a highly qualified family practice physician as your primary care physician and a medical practice that can take care of all your health care needs, call Intercoastal Medical Group today for an appointment with one of our family medicine providers. With more than 95 doctors in eight locations in Sarasota and Manatee County, we make it easy to find a qualified doctor at a location that’s convenient for you. You can also request an appointment online now.