Healthy Choices 101 - By Jay Swisher

There are many ways to enjoy all of the great things around us and still eat healthy!

Hi, my name is Jay Swisher and I serve as the Operations Manager here at Manassas Park Community Center.  I also oversee the front desk, fitness, and custodial divisions. Prior to working with the Department of Parks and Recreation, I served in the allied health field where I primarily focused on health and wellness.  I have a degree in human nutrition and have a real passion for creating healthy lifestyles.

Living and working in a fast paced, urban environment such as Northern Virginia, provides a multitude of advantages and opportunities alike.  We enjoy great access to a host of amenities including: unique/specialty stores, great educational institutions, quality healthcare, cultural events, mass transit, and a wide variety of diverse restaurants and dining options.  The last benefit, however, can also be a detriment to your waistline and overall wellness if not carefully monitored and kept in check.  While dining out is a treat, be cognizant of the impact it can have on your health.  Here are a few things to consider when visiting your favorite eatery:

I.      Portion Control:  It’s very important to be mindful of your portion size when dining out.  3 ounces of meat is the recommended portion size for a meal.  That equates to a deck of cards or bar of soap.  Compare that to the 10-20 oz. steaks most restaurants advertise and you can see how you can quickly sabotage your daily caloric allotment in one meal.

II.      Balance is Necessary:  Fad diets will come and go but so will the weight.  The safest and most effective way to maintain a healthy body weight is through a calculated balance of all the major food groups.  Strive for the following on a daily basis:  6-11 servings of grains, 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2-3 servings of meat and beans, 2-3 servings of dairy and minimal portions of fats and oils.

III.      Beverages Matter:  You can thwart weeks of progress and quickly accumulate a ton of empty calories through poor beverage choices.  Alcohol, soda, fruit/energy drinks, and milkshakes all provide you with a ton of empty calories and minimal nutritional benefit.  This isn’t to say to completely avoid some of these items; just consume in moderation.  Make water and milk (skim) your beverage foundation.

IV.      Sauces and Dressings:  Mayonnaise, salad dressing, butter, oils, gravies, and cream all pack a major caloric punch but provide little health benefit.  Opt for more reasonable choices such as mustard, salsa, olive oil or low-fat milk/sour cream.  This decision alone can save hundreds of calories and 50 plus grams of fat.  Ask for dressings on the side so you can control the consumption.

V.      Baked vs. Fried:  Baked, broiled, grilled, stir fried, or blackened is always superior to fried.  Choose lean meats such as fish, chicken, turkey, and beef.  When choosing a cut of beef, opt for the sirloin or filet over the rib eye or prime rib.

VI.      Vegetables are King:  Vegetables should be the foundation of your daily diet.  They are traditionally low in fat, high in vitamins and minerals, high in fiber, and packed full of antioxidants.  They may help prevent certain types of cancer, lower risk of heart disease stroke, lower blood pressure, boost immunity, and decrease bone loss.  Whether you choose to microwave, steam, bake, or sauté; it’s crucial to make vegetables a priority in your diet.

Just remember, eating healthy is a lifestyle and takes time and effort to implement consistently.  The more you know, the better prepared you will be to combat those dietary temptations and respond with healthy, nutritious, alternatives.  Plus, don’t forget to support your local farmers and farmer’s markets – they have a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables that can add a lot of variety to a healthy diet.

As you all know, our tagline is “Shaping the Future”.  We like to make sure we exercise that motto in everything we do; from recreational activities to being healthy. We offer a variety of group exercise classes for you to take advantage of as well as have healthy vending options in the Community Center to promote even better choices. And don’t forget our personal trainers who are here to help you make the right decisions and stay on track.

*Jay Swisher is the Operations Manager of the Department of Parks and Recreation. He can be reached at 703.335.8872 or via email at j.swisher@manassasparkva.gov


Source:  www.mypyramid.gov

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