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Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were a no-fail food formula, a sort of dietary magic bullet that would keep us healthy and vibrant from birth to old age? While there’s no universal plan that fits everyone’s needs, nutritional guidelines can go a long way toward helping your system function at its peak well into your later years.

4 Steps to Long Life, Vitality and Peak Performance1. Make fruit and veggies the centerpiece of your diet. Unfortunately, many people eat fewer fresh fruits and vegetables as they get older. Yet they’re the best sources of vitamins A, C and E-antioxidants that help fight cancer. Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables also keep your digestive system running smoothly. If you prefer frozen or canned vegetables, opt for the plain varieties. And steer clear of fruits canned in syrup.

2. Keep your body hydrated. Often called the overlooked nutrient, water is essential for cell function. Drinking lots of water can help assuage hunger pangs and can also help prevent kidney stones in those susceptible to them. Drinking more water can also ease constipation. Fruits and vegetables contain lots of water, so eat your water often.

3. Bone up on the benefits of calcium. It’s normal for our bones to lose minerals as we age, but those who lose too many too quickly can develop osteoporosis or brittle-bone disease. Eating calcium-rich foods like low-fat or nonfat dairy products is a good way to keep bones strong. Other sources of calcium include canned salmon with bones and green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale and mustard greens.

4. If you’ve got a special-needs diet, follow it! Certain conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol call for special diets. While the dietary changes your doctor may have recommended might seem difficult, remember the potential reward: a longer, more vital life. Don’t forget to ask your doctor about how your medications may affect your nutrition.

Fort HealthCare’s Nutrition Services treats healthy individuals as well as those being seen for acute or chronic illness or conditions. Their program is for anyone who has concerns and questions about their diet, foods, growth and development, special diets and healthy eating.

For personal nutrition counseling or if your organization would like a speaker for diabetes or nutrition education, call the Nutrition Services Department at (920) 568-5453 or visit FortHealthCare.com/Nutrition.

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Summer’s almost here, and that means active kids. I love to see kids swimming and diving at the Aquatic Center here in Fort Atkinson, boating down the Rock River, smacking tennis balls and riding bikes. Those growing bodies need lots of exercise to stay fit – and they also need plenty of cool, refreshing drinks to keep going in the heat.  

These days, it’s difficult to walk into a convenience store without confronting a big display of sports drinks and energy drinks. Marketing aimed at children and teens has become so intense that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in a May 29, 2011 report encourages physicians to discuss the use of these drinks with their patients during annual physicals.

Are the drinks a good idea? Probably not. First, let’s look at energy drinks. These are marketed under names such as Monster, Red Bull and 5 Hour Energy. They are full of stimulants and do not belong in the diets of children or adolescents.

Sports drinks are a somewhat different story. These beverages (Gatorade is one example) may contain carbohydrates, minerals and electrolytes, and are intended to replenish what’s lost during exercise. These drinks can be beneficial for young athletes during and after a tough workout, but are unnecessary for the average child engaged in routine physical activity. The bottom line is that sports drinks can add significant calories and contribute to weight problems in children.

The very best choice and the one I offer my own children? A tall, cold glass of ice water.

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Healthy eating and physical activity are keys to your child’s well-being. Eating too much and exercising too little may lead to excess body weight and related health problems that may follow them as adults. Here’s how to help your family learn healthy eating and physical activity habits that last a lifetime:

  • Buy and serve more fruits and vegetables. Let your children choose them at the store.
  • Buy fewer soft drinks and high-fat, high-calorie snacks like chips, candy and cookies. Not having these temptations in the house will make the healthy choice easier.
  • Make sure your children eat breakfast every day. Breakfast provides your children with the energy they need to listen and learn in school. Skipping breakfast can leave your children hungry, tired and looking for less-healthy foods later.
  • Eat fast food less often. When you visit a fast-food restaurant, encourage your family to choose healthy options.
  • Offer your children water or low-fat milk more often than fruit juice. Juice that is one-hundred-percent fruit juice is a healthy choice, but it’s high in calories so serve it sparingly.
  • Limit the amount of saturated and trans fat in your family’s diet. Instead, get your fats from sources such as fish, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.
  • Plan healthy meals and eat together as a family.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your children won’t eat a new food the first time it’s served. Some kids need to have a new food served 10 times or more before they’ll eat it. Let your kids assist in preparing meals. They’re more likely to eat food chosen and prepared by them.
  • Avoid using food as a reward when encouraging kids to eat. Promising dessert for eating vegetables sends the message that vegetables are less valuable than dessert.
  • Start with small servings and let your children ask for more if they’re still hungry. They should determine the amount of food they need, and the amount a child eats can vary from day to day.
  • Be aware that some high-fat or high-sugar foods and beverages are strongly marketed to kids. Usually these products are associated with cartoon characters, offer free toys and come in bright packages.
  • Set a good exercise example. If your children see that you’re physically active and having fun, they’re more likely to be active throughout life. Fun physical activities that kids choose are often the best. Kids need about 60 minutes of physical activity a day, but this doesn’t have to happen all at once. Several short bursts throughout the day can be just as good, as is being active together as a family.

All of these tips can help you and your family stay healthy for years to come. By making small changes to your daily habits, your family can stay health and active. To learn more about keeping your family healthy, visit FortHealthCare.com/FamilyWellness.

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