January is a time to think about positive changes, and often our resolutions have to do with health and healthy eating. As you work toward meeting your resolutions this year, take heart and get some added motivation by knowing that your food choices today may eradicate chronic diseases by the end of the century. Incredible, right? But true.
A growing body of research has given us new insight into the origins of chronic disease and indicates that susceptibility to diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease is established far earlier than we once thought. In fact, our risk for chronic disease is strongly influenced by the nutrition and well-being our mother experienced around her pregnancy, and on the nutrition and care we received through the first 1,000 days following conception. This groundbreaking research shows us that our genes aren’t a rigid blueprint for our health, but a series of infinite possibilities turned on or off depending on the nutrition our mothers experienced not just during, but long before her pregnancy.
While this science shows us that individual vulnerability for developing chronic disease may be programmed in the womb, whether that risk manifests as disease later in life is based on the nutrition we receive as an adult, and the lifestyle choices we make.
But we all know it’s not easy to make healthy eating choices, or even to know what those choices are. Grocery store shelves are filled with highly processed products promoted by huge marketing campaigns, restaurant menus are filled with high-fat, high-calorie, sodium and sugar-laden fare and our drive home from work takes us past fast food drive-thru’s with brightly lit signs promoting dollar menus. All of this is hard to pass up when we are stressed by daily life, work and family obligations and often find it easier to buy pre-made food than cook a healthy meal at home.
At the OHSU Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness, we are working to spread the word about the intergenerational effects of nutrition to catalyze a revolution in our food culture so the healthy choice becomes the easy choice. We all have a role to play in a food revolution that has the power to reduce or wipe out chronic disease in future generations. That’s true whether you are a woman who is pregnant or thinking of having a child, a parent or grandparent who can play an influential role in the eating habits of adolescents in your family, or a community member who can work toward making a positive change to our current food culture.
The key to reducing the prevalence of chronic disease in your own life and in future generations starts by promoting healthy, nutrient-rich diets based on wholesome foods now. So take heart as you strive to meet your resolutions for a healthier you. Making more nutritious food choices won’t only make a positive difference in your own health, but in the health of future generations as well. That’s a powerful motivator.
Note: A similar version of this post was originally published in the Bend Bulletin.
Track the food ads
Ever wonder how our food culture got to the point where the easy choice never seems to be the nutritious choice? One day keeps tabs of all the food ads you hear and see. Compare how many are for whole foods and how many are for highly-processed food products.
Make a resolution to cook with more whole foods
Changing eating habits can be a daunting task. Start small by committing to cook one meal a week using only whole foods. Already meet this goal? Then try going a whole day eating and cooking with only whole foods.
Advocate for healthier snacks at work
Tired of only being able to grab chips, candy or soda from the vending machine at work when the afternoon hungries hit? You're probably not the only one. Find out who has the contract with the vending company, send out a survey to co-workers asking about their snack preferences, get on meeting agendas to discuss. Enough voices will let managers know they have a customer base for offering healthier snack options.