Food & Nutrition

Background

Individuals of all ages have diverse nutrition needs as their bodies change. 

Throughout a person’s life, maintaining wholesome habits is an important way to lower the risk of cancers, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and other chronic diseases. A healthy diet should include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Fat-free or low-fat dairy products are also excellent choices. It’s important to eat enough protein foods such as poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts and lean meats and to pick foods that are low in saturated fats, sodium, and added sugars.

Healthy People 2030 has several targets they hope to achieve when it comes to the United States (U.S.) population’s diet including increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while also decreasing the amount of fats, sugars, and salt.

Food & Nutrition Data Overview

Check out the points below for the main takeaways from this page. 

• In New Hampshire (NH) in 2017, people 18 to 24 years of age, those that made less than 34.9k dollars per year, Males, and Asians were the most likely to consume less fruit compared to the other groups in those categories. 

• In NH in 2017, people 18 to 24 years of age, those that made less than 34.9k dollars per year, Males, Asians, and those of two or more races were the most likely to consume less vegetables compared to the other groups in those categories.

• The majority of students in the Greater Nashua Public Health Region (GNPHR) drank water four or more times per day in 2019. The majority of students in the GNPHR also ate breakfast 7 days a week in 2019.

• In 2017, 8.9% of Hillsborough County residents were considered food insecure. 

• In 2019, 61% of students in the GNPHR were trying to manipulate their body weight in some way. Female students were more likely than male students to practice disordered eating behaviors to reduce their body weight. 18.8% of female students went without eating for 24 hours to stay the same or lose weight, 7.7% of female students forced vomiting or took laxatives to stay the same or lose weight, and 3.4% took diet pills or other supplements without a doctors orders to stay the same or lose weight.

Weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) are not necessarily good indicators of health or nutrition. Weight and BMI simply measure the size of a person's body and do not indicate the presence or absence of disease. Promoting weight as an indicator of health can be damaging and stigmatizing.

“The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” - Ann Wigmore

Nutrition

The lack of access to affordable and nutritious food is a major public health problem. 

Good nutrition is essential in keeping current and future generations healthy across the lifespan. Poor nutrition and an unhealthy diet can lead to a variety of chronic health conditions, including heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and other diet-related diseases (Health Outreach Partners). Although nutritious food is available, some people may have difficulty accessing nutritious food. Millions of people in the U.S. have limited access to foods that promote a healthy lifestyle. 

Income

Low-income individuals and families that live in food deserts have limited access to fresh and healthy foods. Purchasing cheaper food is often not as nutritious. 

Accessibility

Transportation plays a crucial role in accessing health food. Another barrier involves people not having an adequate kitchen to prepare healthy food.

Culture

Culture plays a large role in nutrition. Some people may have access to healthy foods but they need help learning how to identify and prepare nutritious meals.

Fruit & Vegetable Consumption

Fruits and vegetables are important for a healthy diet. 

When eating these delicious foods, variety is just as important for your nutrition as quantity. Not one single fruit or vegetable is able to provide your body with the nutrients needed to ensure optimal health. In the U.S., more than 4.8k schools offered salad bars to more than 2.4 million children and staff to increase healthy fruit and vegetable options between the years of 2012 and 2016.

Fruit Consumption Data Snapshot

Any fresh, canned, frozen, dried fruit, or 100% fruit juice counts as a serving of fruit. The recommended amount of fruit depends on age, sex, and physical activity. The amount each person needs can vary between 1 and 2 cups each dayOnly four in 10 children and fewer than one in seven adults eat the recommended amount of fruit (CDC).

Veggie Consumption Data Snapshot

Vegetables are an important part of healthy eating and a great source of many nutrients for overall health and maintenance of our bodies. The amount of vegetables needed depends on your age, sex, and level of physical activity. The amount each person needs can vary between 1 and 3 cups each day. Although they provide great nutrition, less than one in 10 children and adults eat the recommended daily amount of vegetables (CDC). 

Youth Nutrition

Good nutrition in the first two years of life is vital for healthy growth and development. 

Practicing good nutrition early on can help children develop healthy dietary patterns. Unfortunately, most youth do not follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations for healthy eating. According to the CDC, approximately 40% of daily calories consumed by youth are from added sugars and solid fats. These foods are empty calories that provide no nutritious value and affect the overall quality of a youths diet. Approximately half of these empty calories come from soda, fruity drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk. Most youth do not consume the recommended amount of total water (CDC).

Most youth do not consume the recommended amount of total water (CDC).

Eating a healthy breakfast is associated with improved cognitive function and mood, and reduced absenteeism.

Food Insecurity

Food insecurity is defined as the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of lack of money and other resources. Hunger refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort, while food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the level of the household. It does not exist in isolation, as low-income families are affected by multiple, overlapping issues such as affordable housing, social isolation, health problems, medical costs, and low wages. Many people do not have what they need to meet basic needs and these challenges increase a family’s risk of food insecurity. Effective responses to food insecurity throughout our community will need to address these overlapping challenges.

The above map shows the percent of people per New Hampshire county that are considered food insecure. Most recent data is from: "Map the Meal Gap 2019: A Report on County and Congressional District Food Insecurity and County Food Cost in the United States in 2017."

Eating Disorders & Disordered Eating

Eating disorders are serious conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact health, emotions, and the ability to function in important areas of life. Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, are bio-psycho-social diseases, not lifestyle choices made by youth. The average age of onset for eating disorders is 12 to 13 years of age, but is seen and can be diagnosed in children as young as five or six. 

Health Equity & Food & Nutrition

A person's health can be seriously impacted by their race, ethnicity, gender, income level, education, and other socioeconomic factors. In regards to food and nutrition...

• Households with children headed by single women and Black individuals are more likely to be food insecure (SNHS). 

• Over half of food insecure people in the two counties are above the income limit for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called food stamps, meaning they make just enough to not qualify for needed food assistance (SNHS).

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