One in three or 58 million American adults aged 20 through 74 are overweight. According to data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), the number of overweight Americans increased from 25 to 33 percent between 1980 and 1991.
Initial results from the 1999 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), using measured heights and weights, indicate that an estimated 61% of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese.
Living a Healthly Liftstyle
As they move toward independence, young adults can rely on Dietary Guidelines for Americans for easy-to-understand, common-sense advice for establishing a healthy lifestyle. The guidelines are arranged in three categories: Aim for Fitness, Build a Healthy Base, and Choose Sensibly.
Aim for Fitness
Young adults can strive for a healthy weight by following good eating habits and including at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. For an added benefit, physical activity works synergistically with calcium- rich foods for the deposition of optimal bone mass in individuals well into their twenties.
Build a Healthy Base
The Food Guide Pyramid is a helpful tool in selecting foods that will provide all the nutrients needed each day. A plant-based diet is an appropriate foundation for any meal pattern. Eating a variety of grains, especially whole grains, is important as they are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Whole grain foods have a generous amount of fiber which provide a sense of fullness for fewer calories and can stimulate proper bowel function. Many grains are now enriched with folic acid which reduces the risk of serious birth defects when consumed before and during early pregnancy.
It is also important to aim to include a variety of fruits and vegetables each day (at least two fruits and three vegetables). Different fruits and vegetables are rich in a different essential nutrients. This is especially true for dark-green leafy vegetables, orange fruits and vegetables and cooked dry beans and peas. To save time in preparation, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are acceptable alternatives to fresh. For healthful eating, it is important to assure that food is safe from harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, and chemical contaminants. No matter the inherent nutrients in food, if it is not handled safely, it will yield the desired health effect. Hands and food preparation surfaces should be clean. Raw and cooked foods should be kept separate from each other. In addition, food should be cooked to and held at the proper temperature to assure healthful quality.
Young adults can limit their risk of some chronic diseases such as heart disease by choosing foods that are moderate in total fat and low in saturated fat and cholesterol. It is easier to achieve this goal by consuming most calories from grains, fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy products and lean meats or meat substitutes. Using the Nutrition Facts Label can help individuals choose foods moderate in total fat, and lower in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Young adults should take care to not let soft drinks take the place of nutrient-dense foods important for good health, such as milk, an excellent source of calcium. If they choose to drink alcohol, it should be in moderation (two drinks/day for men and one drink/day for women) and along with a meal to slow absorption. A safe level of alcohol has not be established for women at any time during pregnancy. Foods which are prepared with a moderate amount of salt are recommended. The Nutrition Facts Label found on each food item sold can be used to identify foods lower in sodium . When eating out, care should be taken to choose foods with only a moderate amount of salt or salty flavorings. Many people can reduce their chance of developing high blood pressure by limiting their intake of salt. In summary, being physically active, choosing a variety of grains, fruits, and vegetables, taking care to handle foods safely and choosing a diet that is moderate in fat, sugar, salt and alcohol (if at all) are important health strategies for young adults.