By Angela Ciroalo ~
As the clocks change, the flowers begin to blossom, and spring is announced our focus on healthy eating and exercise is reignited just in time for National Nutrition Month. Each year the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics hosts a campaign to promote informed dietary choices for the month of March. Prior to becoming a National month-long event, National Nutrition Week was introduced in March of 1973. However, as the interest in nutrition arose, the event was extended to the entire month of March, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
In an effort to increase awareness of the yearly campaign, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics introduced yearly themes. The 2020 theme for National Nutrition Month is “Eat Right, Bite by Bite.” Good nutrition doesn’t have to be restrictive or overwhelming. Small goals and changes can have a cumulative healthful effect, and every little bit (or bite!) of nutrition is a step in the right direction.
The campaign emphasizes that preparing meals in advance allows the individual make healthier and more informed dietary choices along with reducing food waste and/or water loss saving money and nutrients.
For those interested in participating in this year’s National Nutrition Month, below are a few tips to get started:
1. Incorporate variety in your meals
Each vegetable, fruit, meat, nut, and seed offers a unique set of vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, polyphenols, and other beneficial properties. When selecting ingredients for your meals try adding a new vegetable or fruit to your dish. For example, if you eat romaine lettuce for salad every day, try a spinach salad one day and a kale salad the next day. Or, if you eat chicken for dinner every night, incorporate a salmon and lamb dish that week. It is important to consume a variety of foods with diverse micronutrients to support optimal health and nutrient status.
2. Check your pantry before going shopping
For the year 2020, an emphasis has been placed on making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. It is not uncommon for leftovers and spoiled foods to sit upon our curb each week. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), food waste is estimated between 30-40 percent of the country’s food supply. Therefore, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is reminding residents to buy the food they need or plan to use and avoid purchasing food that may be present in the pantry.
3. Get creative with leftovers
Leftovers are often looked upon as unwanted food, however, leftovers can serve a variety of beneficial purposes throughout the week saving you money, time and frustration. A leftover meal can easily be improved to become a festive version of dinner the following night.
Leftovers can also serve as a delicious lunch meal while at work or with family. Finally, leftovers can feed guests or visitors without the hassle of cooking or ordering out.
4. Taking portion size into consideration
It can be easy to choose a large serving of your favorite meal after a long day, snack on a bag of chips while watching a movie, or eat an entire pint of drip when snacking between meals. However, portion size can be beneficial to take into consideration.
Overeating, as well as undereating, can cause concern when completed continuously. In an effort to avoid eating too much or not eating enough, refer to the USDA MyPlate to grasp a better idea of the amount of fruits, vegetables, protein and grains recommended in each meal.
5. Practice food safety
To avoid any potential contamination or food-borne illness be sure to properly prepare, cook, and store your foods. Be aware of cooking or baking temperatures along with food storage requirements. For example, certain forms of ghee do not require refrigeration whereas all forms of butter require refrigeration.
6. Choose enjoyable activities
Living a healthy lifestyle may appear to be difficult for some. However, this does not have to be the case. Today, there are hundreds even thousands of new and creative ways to be active including, rock climbing gyms, dance fitness classes, aerobic classes, obstacle course gyms, and much more. In an effort to improve your overall health and wellness seek out activities you enjoy opposed to forcing yourself to partake in activities you dislike. Additionally, the opportunity will allow you to try new things, meet new people and learn something new.
7. Increase activity level throughout the week
Activity does not have to equate to ‘going to the gym’ or ‘riding your bike.’ Increasing activity throughout the week can include; parking in the space furthest from the office, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, going for a walk on your lunch break, setting a reminder to get up and stretch once every hour.
Activity does not mean heavy-duty exercise. Increasing activity promotes action and movement, as opposed to sedentary and inactivity.
8. Continue learning the benefits of healthy eating
Information on nutrition and the various benefits of healthy eating is often confused or misunderstood. Various new diets are often introduced or advertised as, ‘The best diet,’ leaving consumers confused and frustrated. Seeking reliable and peer-reviewed information ensures the content is factual and scientifically based. For those seeking and additional insight, visiting a qualified nutritionist or dietitian may be beneficial for the individual.
In summary, National Nutrition Month reminds us to focus on making positive healthy dietary choices along with the many benefits that may develop as a result. There are numerous positive changes one can make to improve their health and lifestyle. It is up to the individual to follow through and commit to making a positive change and following through with their actions. The start of spring is the perfect opportunity to regain motivation to improve your diet, increase your activity and take your first step towards a healthier you.