National Eating Disorder Awareness Week
National Eating Disorder Awareness week is February 21-27. It’s important to know about healthy eating and what you, as a student, should be striving for in terms of healthy nutrition.
What is Healthy Eating?
When it comes to eating healthy, you may see terms like “clean eating” and “balanced eating”, but what do those terms really mean? “Clean eating” generally refers to a diet rich in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains and without processed foods, refined sugars or refined carbohydrates. “Balanced eating” can be defined as eating from a variety of food groups while adhering to portion sizes recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines.
Which One is Better?
There is not a universally recommended way to eat that will suit everybody’s needs. Different styles of eating have different benefits, but it all depends on what’s best for your body and your lifestyle.
- Vegetables – Two and a half to three cups of vegetables is the daily recommended amount for men and women 18 years and over. Vegetables can be raw or cooked, fresh or frozen, and canned or dried. Fresh and frozen are the best choice when available. Example: one baked sweet potato = one cup
- Fruits – One and a half to three cups of fruit is the daily recommended amount for men and women 18 years and over. Fruit can be fresh, frozen, canned or dried. As with vegetables, fresh and frozen are the best choice when available. Example: one large banana = one cup
- Protein – Five to six ounces of protein is the daily recommended amount for men and women 18 years and over. Protein includes meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, peas, nuts, seeds and processed soy products. A variety of lean proteins, such as turkey, chicken or fish, should be prepared using lean cooking methods such as baking, grilling or boiling. Example: one sandwich slice of turkey = one ounce of protein
- Grains – Six to eight ounces of grains is the daily recommended amount for men and women 18 years and over. Grains include bread, pasta, oatmeal, cereal, tortillas and grits. Over half of grains eaten daily should be whole grains. Example: one slice bread = one ounce of grains
- Fluids – Nine cups of fluids for women and 13 cups of fluids for men is the daily recommended amount of fluids to drink for adults 18 years and over. Most of the fluids consumed should be water. Limit consumption of sodas and sugary drinks. Example: eight ounces of water = one cup of fluids
- Unsaturated Fats – 44 – 78 grams of unsaturated fats is the daily recommended amount for men and women 18 years and over. The healthful types of fats are unsaturated fats that come from plant sources such as olive oil, avocados and nuts. These fats should make up the majority of total fat consumption. Example: one tablespoon olive oil = 14 grams of unsaturated fat
Recommended amounts are an approximation. Actual amounts vary by age, gender, activity level, height, weight and goals.
Components to Limit in A Healthy Diet:
- Saturated Fats – Saturated fats are an unhealthy type of fat and consumption of these fats should be limited. These fats come from animal sources and include the fats found in meat, dairy products and eggs. Trans fats are typically found in processed foods and should be avoided. Example: one cup of whole milk = eight grams of saturated fat
- Limit Sugar – Research on added sugar is ongoing, but it can now be concluded that too much sugar added to one’s diet reaps no benefits. In fact, increased sugar consumption is related to higher risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, inflammation and more. Added sugars can be found in sugar-sweetened beverages like soft drinks and juices, candy and desserts such as cake, cookies and pies. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that men eat no more than 37.5 grams of sugar per day and women should consume no more than 25 grams per day. Example: one can of Coca Cola = 44 grams of sugar
- Limit Salt – Limiting sodium consumption throughout the day can help decrease your risk for high blood pressure, which can also decrease your risk for stroke and heart attack. The AHA recommends consuming no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Example: one ounce of potato chips = 170 milligrams of sodium.
Is My Eating Normal?
While eating a variety of foods and limiting sugar, salt and fat can be part of a healthy diet, restricting or eliminating certain foods completely can lead to disordered eating patterns. Disordered eating is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as “a wide range of irregular eating behaviors that do not warrant a diagnosis for a specific eating disorder”. These behaviors can lead to drastic weight changes.
Unhealthy eating behaviors include extreme caloric restriction, food group elimination, skipping meals, binging and purging, compulsive over-exercising, high fat and calorie consumption, overeating when already full or excessive emotional eating. One or more of these behaviors can be a cause for concern as all of these behaviors can be components of disordered eating, leading to a more serious eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder.
Problems associated with disordered eating include weight loss or gain, constipation, dehydration, cessation of menstrual cycle, excessive or compulsive exercise, tooth decay, weakness, abnormal heart rhythm or preoccupation with food and weight.
Family history of disordered eating, family dysfunction, low self-esteem, poor body image, weight fixation, extreme exercise and self-mutilation are all risk factors that can lead to disordered eating patterns.
How Can I Get Help?
If you think you or a friend may have an unhealthy relationship with food or health behaviors, Georgia State University’s Student Health Clinic and Counseling and Testing Center have dietitians who provide nutrition counseling for disordered eating behaviors. For more information, visit the Student Health Clinic Nutrition Services or Counseling and Testing Center Nutrition Services.