Nutrition must be genuinely important on the celebrity recognition circuit: it gets a whole month. Think about it, Lincoln and Washington don’t even get their own days anymore; they’re relegated to share a single President’s day. But National Nutrition Month gets thirty-one full days, and what a month it is.
National Nutrition Month (NNM) is a perfect fit for the blustery transition month of March. As we prepare for spring, we are taking clearing out all the junk we accumulated throughout the winter—and that includes all the bad eating habits that stacked up over the holidays. NNM is about taking stock and getting ready for the great foods that the spring and summer seasons have to offer.
So instead of focusing on all the things that you are “doing wrong” with your diet or making a list of all the foods you should avoid, start to think about ways you can spring your body into nutrition action and take advantage of all the sunshine coming our way.
Here are some suggestions to make your month a little more nutritious!
- Sample the A’s of the season: high octane selections in both the nutritious and delicious categories make artichoke, asparagus and avocado your go to vegetables for spring dinner meals.
- Start your day with a healthy breakfast: high fiber cereal and fruit; whole grain waffles with yogurt; a vegetable egg white omelet with whole grain bread.
- Have a small snack in between meals to curb hunger and prevent overeating
- Add more color to your diet! A rainbow of fruits and vegetables will provide a variety of nutrients and phytonutrients.
- Go WHOLE GRAIN! Try a new grain like bulgur or quinoa, and of course stick with old standbys like rolled oats, whole wheat pasta, or brown rice.
- Go Lean with animal sources of protein. Choose lean cuts of meat and low fat dairy with less than 3 grams of fat per ounce.
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store to get the most nutritional bang for your buck.
- To help reduce saturated fat, look for loin cuts when buying red meat.
- Think fish for dinner tonight! The new Dietary Guidelines recommend increasing seafood in place of some meat and poultry. 4 oz of fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and albacore tuna two times a week will meet your omega-3 needs.
- Did you know that legumes (peas, beans, lentils, peanuts) are one of the most concentrated sources of fiber in the diet? One cup can provide from 12 to 18 grams!
- To help lower your blood pressure, reduce sodium and increase potassium by choosing more fresh foods and aiming for five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
- To help increase your fruit intake, add a cup of sliced berries or banana to yogurt or have veggies like baby carrots and celery sticks as a snack. Adding fruits and veggies throughout the day can help you boost your intake!
- Have you got milk today? To get calcium as well as lean protein, aim for 3 cups of low-fat or fat free milk, yogurt, cheese or fortified soy beverages per day.
- Try using herbs and spices in place of salt in order to lower your sodium intake.
- Keep your eye on added fats! Try to choose foods that are steamed, broiled, baked, or grilled and limit foods that are fried or sautéed.
- Keep a fruit and vegetable diary to track your servings of fruits and vegetables for a week and then challenge yourself to eat more each week until you meet your dietary goals.
- Try unfamiliar fruits and vegetables to sample new flavors and boost your nutrient intake. Spice your life up, and buy a new fruit or vegetable that you’ve never tried before!
- Aim to fill half of your plate with vegetables at each meal.
- Keep vegetables and fruits handy! Pre-wash an assortment of fresh fruit and place in a bowl on the counter. Cut up vegetables and place in the refrigerator to encourage healthful snacking: try carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, celery sticks, sliced bell peppers, broccoli, zucchini, snap peas, and green beans.
- Make a low fat dip or hummus to accompany vegetables.
- Serve a vegetable and fruit platter at lunch and dinner.
- Choose skim or 1% milk.
- Limit fatty snack foods such as cookies and chips and eat a smaller serving (5-10) of nuts with fruit instead.
- Buy ground meat that is at least 90% lean; as long as it’s 90%, it doesn’t matter whether it’s ground beef or turkey.
- Aim to eat more meatless meals, such as vegetarian chili or lentil soup.
- Create a balanced plate at meals: include high fiber carbohydrates as one quarter of the plate, lean proteins as another one quarter of the plate, and the remaining half of the plate as vegetables.
- Lose the salt shaker!
- Look up menu items from restaurants online before you go so you can plan ahead and make healthier choices.
- Portion control matters! If there is a food you want to indulge in, try to limit the portion size instead of feeling deprived by avoiding the food altogether.
At the end of the month, look back and congratulate yourself on the great job you have done. And remember to fit these suggestions into your everyday diet, every month.
Eating well can’t cure everything that ails you, but it can go a long way to prevent many of the chronic diseases the plague our society and keep you at the top of your game. With all its power, nutrition deserves recognition 365 days a year!