Healthy Eating for an Active Life

The days are long and there is plenty of sunshine. It’s a great time of year to get outside and get moving with activities you enjoy, especially with your family!

For youth and adults participating in physical activity like hiking, swimming, or various sports, healthy eating is essential for optimizing performance.  Combining good nutrition and physical activity can lead to a healthier lifestyle. Use these tips from the United States Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate website ( to combine good nutrition and physical activity to make the most of your summer!

First, maximize with nutrient-packed foods. Give your body the nutrients it needs by eating a variety of nutrient-packed food, including whole grains, lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat or fat-free dairy.  Eat fewer foods that are high in solid fats, added sugars, and sodium (salt).

Next, energize with grains! Your body’s quickest energy source comes from grain foods such as bread, pasta, oatmeal, cereals, and tortillas. Be sure to make at least half of your grain food choices whole-grain foods like whole-wheat bread, tortillas, pasta and brown rice. A product is considered whole grain if the first ingredient listed is “whole wheat” or “whole grain.”

Power up with protein. Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle. Choose lean or low-fat cuts of beef and pork, and skinless chicken or turkey.  Choose seafood protein sources twice a week.

Quality protein choices come from plant based foods, too! Choose beans and peas (kidney, pinto, black or white, beans, chickpeas, hummus), soy products (tofu, veggie burgers, tempeh), and unsalted nuts and seeds.

Don’t forget the fruits and vegetables! Get the nutrients your body needs by eating a variety of colors. Try blue, red, or black berries; red, green, or yellow peppers; and dark greens like spinach and kale.

Choose fresh, frozen, canned, and dried varieties as there is minimal nutritional difference between them. When buying canned vegetables aim to purchase the “low-sodium” or “reduced sodium” varieties. With canned or packaged fruits look for those varieties that are packaged in water or 100% fruit juice.

Be sure to also include dairy foods such as fat-free and low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, and fortified soy beverages (soymilk) to build and maintain strong bones needed for everyday activities.

Hydration is critical in the warm summer months! Stay hydrated by drinking water instead of sugary drinks. Dehydration can affect the body in many ways, from nasty headaches to, in extremes, hospitalization.  Keep a filled reusable water bottle with you to always have water on hand.

Remember, physical activity is essential for good health. Aim for at least 2 ½ hours of physical activity each week that requires moderate effort. A “moderate effort” means that you can carry on a conversation while still moving. A few examples include brisk walking, biking, swimming, and skating.  Spread activities over the week but do that at least 10 minutes at a time.

For information about nutrition education program in your local area, contact Chris Coon at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service county office at 254-435-2331.


Written by Amanda R. Scott, MS, RD, LD, Program Specialist, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, College Station, Texas.

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