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Eating Smart and Healthy

Eating is an activity that most people do at least three times a day. We eat because we are hungry, for social reasons, because the food tastes good, and because certain foods are good for us.

Hot Springs, Ark. –Eating is an activity that most people do at least three times a day.  We eat because we are hungry, for social reasons, because the food tastes good, and because certain foods are good for us.  Did you know the foods you eat can impact your overall health?  Nutritious foods can help maintain a healthy body and protect against various illnesses and chronic diseases. It is never too late to start eating well, but it may not be as easy as it sounds.

Start by examining your relationship with food. 

  • Find healthy alternatives.  Do you turn to unhealthy foods when you are stressed or depressed?  If so, find a substitute food or even activity.  For example, instead of grabbing a bag of potato chips, go for pretzels, carrots or a crunchy fruit.  You could even go for a walk or call a friend.
  • Think of food in terms of nutrition.  Why are you eating?  Is it because you are hungry, are you bored or in a social setting?  Instead of eating just to eat, think about food in terms of how it keeps your body healthy and functioning properly.  Before eating, ask yourself if it will help your body perform better.
  • Seek help if you have an unhealthy relationship with food.  Unhealthy food relationships can be destructive both mentally and physically and can occur for a number of reasons.  This includes not only food choices, but overeating and under eating.  Unhealthy food relationships are treatable so find a professional, such as a therapist/counselor, medical provider, or nutritionist to help. 

Eat a variety of nutritious foods.  It’s important to eat from all of the food groups.  The newest nutrition guide from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is called MyPlate.  MyPlate reinforces that a well-balanced, well-portioned meal should include around 30% grains, 30% vegetables, 20% fruits, 20% protein and small portions of low-fat dairy. 

  • Fruits and vegetables are keys to promoting health, especially those that are rich in vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants.  Such fruits and vegetables include berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and dark green vegetables.  Generous amounts of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease and help to manage weight and reduce obesity.
  • Grains are not all created equal.  The USDA recommends that at least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains, versus refined grains.  Whole grains are made from the entire grain kernel which includes bran, germ and endosperm.  Refined grains are grains that have been milled to have the bran and germ removed which may also remove dietary components such as fiber, iron and B vitamins.  Whole grains have been associated with improving cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Protein is a nutrient that the body needs to grow, repair and maintain itself.  Protein acts as a foundation for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood.  Both animal and plant foods contain protein.  Choose lean meats, beans, peas, nuts and eggs to make sure you are getting B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc, iron and magnesium.
  • Calcium and vitamin D can be found in dairy and fortified products.  Calcium helps cells and nerves function, blood to clot, muscles to contract, the heart to beat, and bones and joints to stay strong.  Calcium can also reduce the risk of osteoporosis.  Dairy products that are great sources of calcium are milk, yogurt and cheese.  Vitamin D helps the body to absorb and metabolize calcium more effectively.  Many dairy products are fortified with vitamin D.  Other sources are direct exposure to sunlight (about 15 minutes a day) and fatty fish.

Fats are an important part of a healthy diet as well.  They provide essential fatty acids, keep the skin soft, deliver vitamins, and are a great source of energy, but there are two kinds of fat to choose from – unsaturated (healthy) fat and saturated (unhealthy) fat. 

  • Unsaturated fats include both polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats.  These can help to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.  Polyunsaturated fatty acids are found in vegetable oils, salmon, trout, flaxseed and walnuts.  Monounsaturated fats are found primarily in the form of olive, canola and peanut oils.  But they can also be found in olives, avocados and many nuts.
  • Saturated fats should be eaten sparingly because they can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk for heart disease.  Saturated fats are naturally found in animal products.  Artificial trans fats are also a health concern and can be found in baked goods, packaged snack foods, some margarines, and microwave popcorn. 

Eating healthy today can create a healthier tomorrow.  Not only can it help your body to function better and reduce the risk of illness and chronic disease, healthy eating can provide you with more energy allowing you to be more alert and a better decision maker.  (Adapted from Keys to Embracing Aging: Eating Smart and Healthy)


For more information on Keys to Embracing Aging, contact the Garland County Extension Office at 623-6841 or 922-4703, email Jessica at, or visit our website at

EHC Information

Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information on EHC call 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email

Master Gardeners

If you’re interested in becoming a Master Gardener and would like more information, you’re welcome to attend their monthly meeting on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 1pm at the Elks Lodge.  You may also call the Extension office on 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email

 4-H Information

We have several 4-H clubs for our Garland county youth who are 5 to 19 years old.  For more information on all the fun 4-H activities there are, call the Extension Office at 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email Linda Bates at

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

By Jessica Vincent
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jessica Vincent
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
236 Woodbine Hot Springs AR 71901
(501) 623-6841

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  • The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

    The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.