How are you eating?
Do you remember how much you weighed before coming to this country? Have you noticed you have been gaining weight year after year? What about your eating habits and patterns? Do you eat the way you ate back home, or have you slowly adopted the American diet and lifestyle? Do you find yourself eating on the run and not much time to sit down for a family meal? Do you look at what your children are eating and wish they ate better? Do you feel that your physical activity level is much lower than you would like?
I am guessing that you answered yes to most of these questions. Well, it is time to turn over a new leaf and start investing in your health. You really need to pay close attention to your nutrition and lifestyle because what you eat today becomes part of you tomorrow.
Why should you pay attention to your nutrition?
Of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States of America, four, namely heart disease(#1), cancer (#2), stroke (#3) and diabetes (#6) are related to nutrition and claim the lives of close to one million people every year. Just by being in this country, your risk for these diseases increases. Early signs of chronic disease usually begin to show in middle adulthood with people in their early 40’s although the disease process may in some cases start in childhood. Africans moving to this country as adults take about 2 to 4 years to start developing signs and symptoms of some of these chronic diseases when they adopt the American diet and sedentary lifestyle. In the next few months I will be going over some of the important aspects of your diet and lifestyle that you need to pay close attention to and give you tips on what foods to buy and how you can begin to make positive steps towards good health for you and your family. Do not let another day pass you by, start your journey to good health today!
Where can you start today?
There are different tools available that can help you plan for a healthy meal and one of them is the new food guide pyramid called “My Pyramid Plan”, developed by US Department of Agriculture (USDA). This guide can help you determine and assess your own dietary intake and provide you with useful information on how to plan for a healthy diet and lifestyle. I highly recommend that you start by carrying out your own dietary analysis using this tool.
Ten steps to carry out your own diet analysis
1. Keep a record of everything you eat and drink for at least one day (24 hours). The food record should list the time, the food and the amount eaten, including all beverages, snacks, added sugar and salt.
2. Log onto the USDA website: www.mypyramid.gov 
3. Click on My Pyramid Plan and enter age, gender and physical activity level
4. Take a look at the recommendations given for you from each food group listed and print them for your own record.
5. Then go to My Pyramid Tracker for a more detailed assessment of your diet
6. Click on Assess Food Intake and register as a new user
7. Click on Food Intake Entry and add food items one at a time from your one day food record.
* Some foods we eat from Africa may not be listed so choose the closest match.
8. Then Select Quantity and enter serving size and number of servings for all food items listed.
9. Then click on Save and Analyze and a list of different aspects of your food analysis comes up.
10. Click on each one of them to see how your current intake compares with the recommendations given for you.
How are you doing?
Murugi holds a Masters of Public Health in Nutrition from the University of Minnesota. She is a Registered Dietitian and a Licensed Nutritionist in the State of Minnesota. She is a nutrition instructor at Century and Inver Hills Community Colleges and teaches nutrition classes in the community. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org .