With World Health Day being today, April 7th, I’ve been thinking about how blessed I am to have the necessities (actually, let me rephrase that by saying the “luxuries”) it takes to stay healthy and fit. Without turning this into a political platform, I’d like to point out I have access not just basic medical care, but also the services of highly-trained specialists who can treat my every concern with state-of-the-art equipment and the latest medications. I have a never-ending fresh water supply that flows from 10 spigots in my home and I restock my two refrigerators, freezer and pantry with frequent trips to Costco, the grocery store and the farmer’s market.
In this global economy, I rarely have to wait for my favorite produce to be “in season” and I never have to subsist on the same foods day in and day out. I can plan healthy meals by surfing the internet, pinning recipes and purchasing hard-to-find healthy products online. When I’m strapped for time, I can even order pre-portioned, dietician-approved meals to be delivered to straight to my home. As if this abundance isn’t enough, it also extends to the ways I stay in shape. I have an embarrassingly large number of running shoes, two gym memberships, and sporting gadgets and gear galore along with the luxury of adequate leisure time to put them all to good use. Yes, I am truly blessed. But, obviously, not every part of the planet has these luxuries . . . many people in the world have no food, no water and no shoes, comparatively speaking. That always leaves me in a baffled state as to how the United States is surprisingly unhealthy and unfit as a whole – despite all our blessings. Part of the predicament can be attributed to bad habits; we all like our sweet, salty, fatty comfort foods and it is far easier to come home and plop down, rather that exercise, on busy days. Some of the problem is the “perceived” expense of eating healthy foods and staying fit. A recent Harvard study reported that it only costs $1.50 per day per person to “eat healthy” and I have found that it is even less of a burden if you are committed to shopping the weekly sales for produce, lean proteins and whole grains. Plus, what is the expense to jog with your kids in the neighborhood or walk up and down flights of stairs on your lunch hour? It only taxes your comfort, not your pocketbook.
Another reason I believe Americans aren’t as healthy and fit as we could be is due to the confusion of how much of “this” and “that” to eat. For example, the serving sizes at restaurants will completely warp your sense of how much food you actually need! For good health, a serving of protein should fit in your open palm, a serving of grains should be roughly the size of your fist and a dollop of heart-healthy fats no more than the tip of your thumb. Due to natural sugars, a portion of fruit should be the size of your fist, but cup your two hands together as a bowl to hold lots of vegetables! When you know better, you do better – use these hand guides to visualize just how much food your actually body needs.
Unfortunately, according to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, only a third of American adults reported eating two servings a fruit a day and less than 27 percent consumed three or more servings of veggies, the minimum recommended daily amount. There are so many benefits to eating fruits and vegetables - they are naturally nutrient rich; tastier than vitamin pills; low in calories and fat; cholesterol-free and packed with disease-fighting antioxidants. One healthy habit you can start today is to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables on your plate. My Confetti Fruit & Veggie Lettuce Wraps recipe will have you well on your way to meeting your optimal daily nutrition goals. Carrots, cucumbers, snow pea shoots, red onion, strawberries, mango, papaya, black beans and feta cheese are dusted with Litehouse Food’s Instantly Fresh Herbs, scooped into romaine lettuce leaves, sprinkled with feta cheese and drizzled with Huckleberry Vinaigrette. Be creative and experiment with your favorite rainbow array of produce and Litehouse salad dressings or try something new!