Nutrition and Food PortionsPosted: May 20, 2013
By Dr. Ufuale Christine Afola Amey
American supermarkets’ food can look very different and strange for many newcomers in New York City. What is good to eat? How much food to buy? What kind of food can I use for my cooking? Well, by now you may know that sugar, sugary drinks, salty snacks and processed packaged food are bad for you. If you are still figuring out the healthy diet for yourself, then there is a great resource for you.
On February 14, 2013 at the Andrew Romay New Immigrant Center, Ms. Nedra Jones, a trainer of the Cornell University Cooperative Extension, nicely led us through the different paths of getting a good health that we hardly saw the two hours go by. Through her questions and answers we learnt about the quality and quantity of foods we need daily to be healthy. We need foods to live but we must also care about what we put in our plates all the time, because a very high rate of mortality is linked to sugar, salt and fat overconsumption. Most of cardio-vascular diseases find their root in a high accumulation of these 3 nutritional elements. As there are different ways to get these elements and to better guide people in their choice, foods are divided into 5 groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy.
We daily need all the 5 groups for our well being so it’s very important to know about what goes into each group. For instance, when we daily eat only oranges, strawberries, cantaloupe and drink mixed fruits juice, we definitely eat all subgroups of fruits but maybe overtake our portion of food without using the other groups. The amount of fruits each person needs, depends on his/her age, sex, level of activities, and according to Nedra, in general, the daily need is 2 cups. As an illustration, she showed us the types of cups and glasses that are recommended.
Vegetables are really varied so we should be careful when often taking only lettuce, broccoli or spinach because besides this dark green vegetables group, we also need beans and peas group (black beans, lentils, soy beans…), starchy vegetables group (corn, potatoes, green bananas), red orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes…) and other vegetables (onions, green beans, avocado). All the vegetables may be taken raw, cooked, fresh, frozen dried, cut-up or mashed. The daily need of this group is 2.5 cups but may change from one person to another.
Grains foods are a good source of fiber for our tissues and for a better digestion, but we need to balance this group. Any food made from wheat, rice, oat or another cereal is a grain product. If we are often able to alternate products made of Whole grains (brown rice, oat, wheat flour) with those of Refined grains (white rice, white flour, white bread) our nutrition will be more various, rich and more beneficial for our health. Even though the recommended daily intake of grains depends on sex, age and daily personal activities, the general amount should not exceed 3 ounces a day.
For instance, if we do not eat meat or poultry, we can take peas, eggs, sea foods, nuts or nut seeds to balance our need of proteins. The most important thing we should do is to get the amount we need every day. If the daily intake is 5.5 cups, it’s good to know that a single thigh of chicken or one egg gives us already 1 cup of this group.
Those of us who like milk or food stuffs made out of milk should consider themselves dairy-lovers. To balance the dairy group, we should try to add cheese, yogurt, milk dessert or soy milk sometime. One glass of milk represents 1 cup and we should know that the recommended daily intake of dairy products is 3 cups.
We need five groups of foods every day, but before we eat, we should think about what we put in our plate. According to Nedra, to avoid junk foods in our refrigerator, we should never do food shopping when we are hungry. As new immigrants in New York, far from our country food habits, we should try as much as possible to know more and better about nutrition and foods portions in order to balance our foods for a better and healthier life. The next classes of Nedra Jones in the Center will be available from March 2013. We were invited to get more information on nutrition and portion sizes at www.choosemyplate.gov