Eat well now for a Healthier Future

by Heather McMillion

What you eat today can affect how you feel in 10, 20 or more years from now. As we get older, many of us may develop one or more chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancers. These diseases can be directly linked to the foods we eat—or foods we aren’t eating. Chronic health problems develop over many years of unhealthy behaviors, like eating unhealthy foods and being inactive.

To keep feeling good and reduce your chances of developing chronic diseases in the future, eat a variety of these good foods:

Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients and fiber which help prevent chronic diseases. Berries and greens grow well in Alaska. Salmonberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, fiddleheads, spruce tips, beach asparagus, sourdock, and many other edible plants may be available just outside your door!

Wild game such as moose, deer, and musk ox; birds like ptarmigan, geese, duck, and chicken; and lean beef are excellent sources of protein.

-Seafood and fish found in the YK Delta including seal, whale, herring and salmon are high in protein and contain fats that are good for your heart and brain.

Whole grains and plant protein sources are high in fiber and nutrients that can help lower blood cholesterol and blood sugar. These foods are helpful in preventing chronic diseases such as heart disease, colorectal cancer, and diabetes, among others. Dried beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds are good sources of plant proteins and are inexpensive and easy to cook. Oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat bread are examples of whole grains available in some village stores.

In addition to including the foods listed above, decreasing the amount of ultra-processed foods such as pop, candy, and chips has health benefits too. Ultra-processed foods tend to have poor nutritional value and have added fat, salt, and/or sugar, as well as other additives. Ultra-processed foods are linked with obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions.

March is National Nutrition Month. It’s a great time to pick up a few healthier nutrition habits. Your future self will thank you! Even better is that your children will follow the example you set for them. Teaching your children and grandchildren healthy eating habits now will help improve the health outcomes of future generations.

-For recipes using foods found in Alaska, check out the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation’s website,

-Find recipes that can help bring traditional foods into your kitchen through the Store Outside Your Door Webisodes. Visit YouTube and type “ANTCHStoreOutside” in the search box.

-The State of Alaska website offers a number of free programs to help prevent and treat chronic disease. You can find this on their website or just search for “Fresh Start Alaska”.

This month’s recipe features whole grain brown rice and encourages you to add some berries. It also helps you enjoy a sweet treat in a healthier way by using fat free milk and going light on the sugar.

Brown Rice Pudding


•1 ¼ cups water

•½ cup uncooked brown rice

•¼ teaspoon salt

•3 cups fat free milk

•3 tablespoons brown sugar

•1 teaspoon vanilla extract

•Berries or other fruit (optional)


1. In a large saucepan, combine water, rice, and salt.

2. Bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until tender.

4. Stir in milk and brown sugar.

5. Cook, uncovered, for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

7. Chill if desired.

8. Serve with fruit on top.

Heather McMillion, MS, RD, LD, CDCES writes from the YKHC Diabetes and Prevention Department.