Eating healthy is a foundation for feeling good and minimizing chronic pain. National Eating Healthy Day on Nov. 5 celebrates the health benefits of fruits, vegetables, and other whole, unprocessed foods while encouraging people to eat more of them.

National Eating Healthy Day is organized by the American Heart Association (AHA), which promotes partaking in healthy foods as a way to avoid heart conditions. The organization’s website, heart.org, offers a repository of information and tips to help people incorporate more healthy choices into everyday living.

People interested in taking a more active role during National Healthy Eating Day will find a variety of free, downloadable toolkits on AHA’s website. Each toolkit is designed to meet the information needs of different groups, from individuals to representatives of companies, schools, and community service organizations. AHA also provides downloadable posters and promotional flyers to spread the message of healthy eating.

National Healthy Eating Day tips include:

  • Select a day that works for you. Nov. 5 is the official day, but if you’re traveling that day or have a packed agenda, pick another day with enough time to devote to making healthy choices. Once healthy choices become habits, they won’t be quite so time consuming. But making brand new choices can take extra energy and effort, so it’s best to pick a day that works for you and your schedule.
  • Promote National Healthy Eating Day on social media. Whether you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or just email, tell all your friends about this great new opportunity to make healthy choices and feel better in the process.
  • Prepare ahead of time for your selected activities. You might use the day as a starting off point for a new eating plan; or you might visit a farmer’s market and buy a vegetable you’ve never eaten before. Maybe you’ll eat a whole-foods lunch instead of a microwaveable meal or other processed food. Maybe you decide to drink water all day instead of soda. No matter what you do, choose ahead of time and decide how you’ll support yourself throughout the day to make the event a success.
  • Celebrate! AHA encourages people making healthy choices to celebrate their wins and successes, no matter how small. Every small step in the right direction brings you closer to managing pain and enjoying better health.

Where do I find information about healthy eating?

Many people find eating healthy confusing, so if you do, you’re not alone. Nutrition has people so confused that 52% of U.S. adults find their income taxes easier to understand, according to a survey completed by the International Food Information Council Foundation.

Fortunately, eating healthy doesn’t have to be so confusing. National Healthy Eating Day strives to offer clarification.

A good, comprehensive resource for optimal nutrition is AHA’s Nutrition Basics webpage. On it, you’ll find in-depth nutrition guides outlining the benefits and concerns of sodium, sugar, fat and oils, fruits and vegetables, and meat and fish.

If those guides overwhelm you with information, WebMD also offers a cheat sheet that describes how to eat healthy. And AHA has a special National Healthy Eating Day sheet full of tips for incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet.

Tips include:

  • Add vegetables to pizza
  • Pre-chop fruits and vegetables so they’re ready for a fast snack
  • Drink fruits and vegetables by making a delicious smoothie
  • Eat fruit for dessert

Many organizations and groups promote different ways of eating healthy, but a healthy diet is essentially one that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Drink more water and less fruit juice and soda. WebMD recommends:

“Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Split the other half between whole grains and lean protein.”

Another resource is the United States Department of Agriculture’s Choose My Plate website. The site offers a wealth of information, including how to eat healthy on a budget. This is the site to visit if you’re not a fan of cooking. It even includes a sample two-week menu complete with a grocery list.

Healthy breakfasts on the menu include peanut butter raisin oatmeal, cereal with fruit, and scrambled eggs with toast. Lunch ideas range from salads with honey lemon chicken to a tuna-cucumber wrap and one-pan spaghetti. For dinner, enjoy oven-fried fish couscous with peas and onions, lentil stew, or pan-friend pork chops.

Other budget tips include buying frozen vegetables, avoiding pre-cut produce, which costs more, and taking advantage of generic brands to save money.

For those just starting a healthy eating adventure, learning to read food labels is helpful. The USDA promotes this idea with the slogan, “Read it before you eat it.”

Another excellent diet resource comes from the Harvard School of Public Health. The school’s nutrition experts designed their own Healthy Eating Plate to address what they said were deficiencies in the USDA’s eating recommendations. A comparison of Harvard’s plate to the USDA plate can be viewed here.

Harvard’s tips are really simple. They include:

  • Use healthy oils, like olive oil, instead of butter
  • Eat a lot of fruit
  • The more vegetables the better, and potatoes don’t count because they’re high in starch which can lead to spikes in blood sugar
  • Eat whole grains and limit white rice and white bread because white flour can also lead to spikes in blood sugar
  • Stay active

What are healthy ways of preparing food?

Once you figure out which foods to include on your plate, the next step is to prepare them in healthy ways. There’s no better way to celebrate National Healthy Eating Day than eating a delicious, healthy dinner with your family.

AHA recommends trimming the fat off any meat you plan to eat before cooking. Low-fat or light salad dressings will help keep fat and calories off an otherwise healthy salad. Simple olive oil and vinegar is a healthy dressing you can make right at home. Keep seasonings healthy by avoiding prepackaged mixes, according to AHA. Prepackaged varieties have high sodium content.

For robust, healthy flavor consider using fresh herbs. Fresh rosemary or basil complements meat-based or vegetarian dishes, adding tons of flavor and health benefits.

And instead of frying foods, consider stir-frying with olive oil, roasting in the oven, grilling, or baking. Steamed vegetables, cooked by placing in a basket over boiling water, are also very healthy.

Do you plan to participate in National Healthy Eating Day?

Image by U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr

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