Evergreen Park’s new Humana neighborhood center in the new Plaza is a welcoming, bright, and versatile space. On a recent morning, it deftly transformed from a conference area where Chamber members enjoyed a breakfast buffet into an exercise space for an exercise class with local seniors. Humana is a health insurance company, but at their neighborhood centers, they also provide a variety of community programming for the public. 

The center, which opened last summer, recently hosted the Evergreen Park Chamber of Commerce for a networking breakfast and nutrition workshop called “Rate Your Plate.” Humana health educator Kristin Conrad shared best practices for healthful eating, along with helpful tips for avoiding pitfalls. Some of her key takeaways:

You should eat nine servings of fruits and veggies per week.

Fruit Facts

76% of Americans don’t eat enough fruit daily. Expense, availability, and shelf life are the main obstacles cited. Conrad suggested purchasing fresh produce when it’s in season, then freezing it to enjoy throughout the year. She said that women should aim for eating 1.5 cups of fruit per day, versus 2 cups for men.

Veggie Facts

87% of Americans don’t eat enough vegetables, even though they have the highest nutritional value of all foods. Women should eat 2 cups of vegetables per day; men, 2.5 cups. Conrad said that if you store veggies in plain sight, chances are you’ll eat them.

Whole Grains Facts

While Americans eat plenty of grains (in the form of bleached flour), most of us consume less than 1 serving of whole grains per day. Women should have 5 ounces of whole grains–oats, quinoa, brown rice, barley, whole wheat etc.—and men should consume 6 ounces per day.

Protein Facts

Men need just 5.5 ounces of protein each day, and women need just 5 ounces.

 

Healthy Eating Hacks

Avoid Portion Pitfalls—Measure your portions. Purchase a food scale to help keep you honest with your serving size. When you snack, don’t reach into a jar or bag for repeat handfuls, Instead, measure a single serving snack to enjoy. When you eat a full meal, consider using a 9-inch plate, which will help you resist the temptation to fill a larger plate.

Be a Smart Shopper—Plan a weekly menu and use it as a shopping guide. When you’re at the store, avoid the candy and sugary drinks aisles. Instead, start in the produce section. Also, don’t shop when you’re hungry.

Dine Out with Care—Restaurant portions can be huge! Be mindful of your regular portion size, and ask for a to-go container or share your meal. Another good tip is to eat your veggies first, to help fill you up. You can also ask for food to be prepared in a healthy manner and request sauces and dressings on the side.

Limit Added Sugar—Most of us eat far more sugar than our bodies need. The recommended daily allowance of sugar is 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men. The new food labels coming out in July will show added sugar, which will be helpful for those paying attention to their intake.