Happy National Nutrition Month! This is an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is celebrated every March. This year’s theme is Eat Right, Bite by Bite. The theme focuses on making informed food choices, developing sound eating and physical activity habits. The month has been broken down into four key messages to focus on each week. By doing this, individuals are able to take small steps to make a big difference in their health. Challenge yourself to incorporate two to three healthful behaviors each week.
Week One: Eat a variety of nutritious foods each week!
Include healthful foods from all food groups. Can you make your plate the “MyPlate way?” This means incorporating one serving of fruits, vegetables, grains, lean protein and low-fat or nonfat dairy.
Hydrate healthfully. Focus on increasing your water intake to at least 64 ounces per day, while decreasing your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, like soda, juice and energy drinks.
Learn how to read the Nutrition Facts Panel. Did you know the nutrition facts label is changing? Educate yourself about the amount of fiber, added sugar, and sodium in the foods you are consuming.
Practice portion control. Consider utilizing smaller plates and utensils during meals to decrease portion sizes.
Take time to enjoy your food. Did you know it takes your brain and your stomach about twenty minutes to communicate that you are full? Experiment by timing your meals to see your baseline meal duration. Next, add on two minutes each week until most meals are taking you twenty to thirty minutes.
Week Two: Plan your meals each week!
Use a grocery list to shop for healthful foods. Decrease the amount of times each week you stop at the grocery store. By planning out a grocery list, we are less likely to purchase products that are not completely inline with our wellness goals.
Be menu-savvy when dining out. Look the restaurant’s menu up online before you go! Take it a step further by deciding what you will order when you are at the restaurant before you go.
Choose healthful recipes to make throughout the week. Browse through the Iowa Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website, www.eatrightiowa.org, to find some great healthful recipes.
Enjoy healthful eating at school and work. Evaluate how foods make you feel after eating them. Do you feel tired or have low energy after lunch? How do these feelings differ when we consume nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables compared to energy-dense snack foods?
Plan healthful eating while traveling. If able, pack a cooler with healthful snacks for road trips. Also, consider stopping at a grocery store and stocking up on “essentials” for breakfast and lunch, then dine out for dinner. Remember you can always bring half of your dinner back to the mini fridge to eat for lunch the next day- saving money, time and decreasing the risk of overeating!
Week Three: Learn skills to create tasty meals!
Keep healthful ingredients on hand. Stock up on fruits, vegetables, healthful convenience foods and on-the-go sources of lean protein. Some individuals find it helpful to wash and cut up fruits and vegetables when they get home from the grocery store so they are easily accessible and ready.
Practice proper home food safety. Ensure you are washing fruits and vegetables prior to eating them, discarding of leftovers before they spoil and holding cold foods cold and hot foods hot.
Share meals together as a family when possible. Family meals eaten at home have been proven to benefit the health and well-being of children. Visit https://www.fmi.org/family-meals-month to learn more.
Reduce food waste. Practice sustainability in your daily life. Planning weekly meals before creating a grocery list can decrease food waste each week.
Try new flavors and foods. Experiment with herbs and spices! Also, implement “Try It Tuesdays” and try a new healthful food each Tuesday to increase the variety in your diet.
Week Four: Consult a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)!
Ask your doctor for a referral to an RDN. Registered Dietitian Nutritionists are the real nutrition experts. RDN’s have received extensive knowledge related to nutrition and wellness from an accredited university, completed a dietetic internship, and passed a national board exam.
Receive personalized nutrition advice to meet your goals. Everyone is different, right? Therefore, one person’s nutrition plan may not work for you and that is okay. Seeking advice from a RDN will ensure you are receiving individualized nutrition care and focusing on wellness goals that are important to you.
Meet with RDN’s in a variety of settings throughout the community. RDN’s work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, fitness centers, grocery stores, schools, among others. If you aren’t able to locate an RDN in your community, visit https://www.eatright.org/find-an-expert.
Find an RDN who is specialized to serve your unique needs. RDN’s can become specialized in diabetes, renal, sports and fitness, weight management, nutrition support, eating disorders, and much more.
Thrive through the transformative power of food and nutrition. Realize how far you have come and celebrate your successes, small and big. Meeting with an RDN can increase accountability and motivation to reach your wellness vision.
Blog Provided by Allysa Ballantini, MPP-D, RD, LD