Improving your health, one bite at a time

Spring is just around the corner, and with it the first asparagus and greens of the season. Great news for those of us trying to eat a healthy diet and getting a little weary of root veggies. This month we bring you the nutritional wisdom of Dr. Kent Thornburg, director of the OHSU Bob & Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness.

The Institute has been conducting amazing research on the effect of diet on health—as well as how girls’ and women’s diets can affect the health of future generations. We asked Dr. Thornburg what that really means for women and girls and specifically for tween and teen girls whose diets can be rather challenging, to say the least.

What’s the one piece of advice about nutrition that you would give to a young woman?

“The best advice for young women is to eat a balanced and nutritious diet and to avoid excessive amounts of junk food. A healthy daily diet is one that includes fruits and vegetables, legumes (like beans), nuts, whole grains and a source of healthy fat (fish and olive oil). Also, there are foods that stress the body and should be used sparingly, including dairy fat, red meat, processed sugars and high-fructose corn syrup.”

And now the research suggests that what we eat when we are going through puberty and beyond can also affect the health of any future children.

“Most of us don’t realize that our nutrition is largely determined by our food culture. We consume the foods that our families and our friends like to eat. So even if a young person knows the elements of a good diet, they are not likely to deviate very far from friends and family. To make matters worse, most “junk” foods are designed to taste good and satisfy appetite. The question we need to ask ourselves is how can we change the food culture for this generation?”

So how can we help young people make smarter food choices?

“One small way is to ask young people what healthy foods they like to eat. If they like apples, for example, make apples available to replace candy bars and other snacks.”

So try replacing the candy in your cabinets with trail mix, dried fruit and other healthy snacks. Ask your kids to make one or two healthy “swaps” a week and see how they like it. We bet they will. Here’s to good health, one bite at a time.


Drs. Michelle Berlin and Renée Edwards are co-directors of the OHSU Center for Women’s Health. Dr. Berlin specializes in OB/GYN and preventive medicine and Dr. Edwards specializes in urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery. 

To keep up with the latest from the Center for Women’s Health, sign up for the Center’s monthly newsletter.


2 responses to “Improving your health, one bite at a time

  1. I think it is so great that this conversation is happening. I know I ate terribly as a teen- especially school lunches. I have young friends and friends with kids and I really hope they make better choices and get the supportive environment they need. It’s hard to undo years of bad habits, and harder to turn your back on so-called “comfort food.”

  2. It is so important to reach out to our teenagers to try to instill good eating habits. However, I agree that one of the most important ways to reach kids is by modeling healthy eating ourselves. If we don’t have the parents engaged in eating healthy, it will be difficult to get the children to do so. A whole food diet for the whole family can be trans-formative for everyone.

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