Healthy Happy New Year

Guest Blog by Marilyn Ricci, M.S, R.D.N. & Jonathan Ricci

Every January many of us make resolutions to eat better. Our decision is often based on the desire to weigh less. Of course being a healthful weight is desirable, but what is more important?

Take a minute and reflect on what being healthy means to you. Does it mean a better quality of life? Take another minute to consider how food impacts your health and quality of life. Do you like hiking, playing games or swimming? Whatever you enjoy, food is essential to both your physical health and your mental health.

Interestingly, your heart and mind, two of the most important organs in your body require the same nutrients to work at optimum capacity. I bet you can name the foods that are required for good health. Yes, you are correct: vegetables, fruits, low fat dairy, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, fish, beans and nuts. These foods contain the phytochemicals, fiber, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals necessary for a strong body. This healthy eating style is also low in saturated fat, Trans fat, cholesterol and added sugar.

The difficult part of this eating plan is that it calls for you to eat little red meat, sweets, salty snack foods and sugary drinks. This is difficult because as we all know once you open that bag of chips or box of cookies; it is very hard to control how much you eat. What do you do? How do you make changes to what you eat?

First you must decide (and only you can make this decision) that you want to eat more healthful. Next, when shopping do not buy any foods that are not healthful. If the foods are not in the house, you can’t eat them.

What to buy? Vegetables and fruits - whatever is on sale. An apple does keep the doctor away. Baby carrots take no preparation. Fruits and vegetables take time to eat. You cannot eat a lot of calories in a few minutes. More important, they provide lots of fiber, vitamins and minerals and phytochemicals that protect your body and mind from harmful substances.

There are more than 4000 phytochemicals identified to date. The benefits of phytochemicals depend on eating 5 to 9 servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day. Every day make a habit of counting the number of servings of vegetables and fruits you eat, making sure to reach at least 5 servings. A serving is ½ cup or a medium size vegetable/fruit.

Jonathan, who is a NAMI peer member, recommends a vegetarian diet and green tea. When shopping, he says buy bananas, mangoes and berries for their high nutrient content and phytochemicals. They are not inexpensive foods, but they are important to his health. A bag of cookies or chips are also expensive. However, they contribute no important nutrients to your body.

For the New Year eat more fruits and vegetables!

PLEASE NOTE: Information on healthy eating, as well as other healthy lifestyle changes to enhance you or your loved one’s mental health are regularly discussed at NAMI Education Classes and NAMI Support Groups! Please visit:

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