health__web.jpgWe have entered into a season with a succession of holidays where food is the centerpiece of the gatherings we have with our families.  Before you sit down to the dinner table with thoughts of second and third servings of your favorite macaroni and cheese, now is the time to take a moment to contemplate the impact on your overall health and life.

Many Americans are suffering from diseases and conditions such as diabetes and obesity which can be aggravated due to poor food choices.  To make the family gatherings nourishing to your spirit, as well as your body, it is time to face the facts about our food and beverage consumption in a new light for a new year and beyond.

In the United States, more than 72 million Americans are obese, a one percent increase and an additional 2.4 million people over the last two years. 

Studies have also revealed that 17 million Americans have diabetes, including nearly four million African Americans 20 years of age or older.

African Americans bear the burden of diabetes and other conditions at higher rates of incidence than any other ethnic population. 

Based on such statistics, it is essential for African Americans to understand these diseases and their causes and, more importantly, how to take preventive measures.  The holidays are a good time to start.

This season, temptations will come at holiday office parties, Christmas dinners, Kwanzaa celebrations and New Year’s Eve festivities.  If you go in with a plan, you can maintain control and adhere to your nutrition objectives.   At social gatherings or as you sit down to your table daily:

• Choose small portions and limit your favorite carbohydrates such as pasta, breads and dessert.

• Enjoy more vegetables and high protein meats. 

• Try baking foods instead of frying and use spices liberally to deepen the flavor.

• Enjoy mini-sized cans of your favorite drinks to manage your calorie intake. You can also choose zero calorie beverages to enjoy with your meals. 

Despite all of our busy lives, it’s time to stop making excuses and make exercise a priority.  It is critical to maintain a healthy weight and incorporate physical activity into your everyday routine.  Weight maintenance is about burning the calories we put into our bodies.

I recommend that adults and children get in 60 minutes of physical activity a day. This can be broken down into 15-minute increments throughout the day.  

Bike riding, dancing, working in the yard, cleaning the house with music and playing interactive video games such as Wii games are all forms of physical activity that can be fun and help us burn calories. 

When making your new year’s resolutions, resolve to  communicate more regularly with your doctor, to choose healthy foods and beverages that fit your lifestyle and to stay active so that you can enjoy many more events with your loved ones .

Dr. Rani Whitfield is a Live Positively ambassador and a consultant to the food and beverage Industry.