Eat well during National Nutrition Month®
National Nutrition Month® is an annual nutrition education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in the United States. Celebrated each year in March, the aim of the campaign is to encourage good eating and physical activity habits by focusing on the importance of informed food choices. While this annual celebration is an American initiative, the information certainly has global appeal.
This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month® is “Eat Right Bite by Bite.” The philosophy behind the theme is that small goals and changes can have a cumulative effect, as far as your health goes. Every little bit, or bite, counts; and even small, healthy changes matter.
If you and your family want to embrace National Nutrition Month®, here are some steps you can take to make your eating healthier, and ways to celebrate this delicious and nutritious month!
Commit to eating less processed foods. Processed foods are those that have had a series of mechanical or chemical operations performed on them to change or preserve them.1 You’ll usually find processed foods in boxes, bags, and cans in the center aisles of the grocery store. Boxed macaroni and cheese, frozen entrees, canned soup—these are all examples of processed foods. Some processed foods are actually quite healthy such as unsalted canned beans, tofu, and frozen vegetables; but most are full of preservatives, salt, and added sugar. It’s impossible to completely avoid processed foods, but try to limit them as much as possible. Opt instead for whole foods; that is, foods that are minimally processed such as fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. Cooking from scratch is a great way to use whole foods and avoid processed ones. Check out Eating Well for 30 delicious whole food recipes your family will enjoy.
Get your kids or grandkids in the kitchen. This is a great month to get everyone involved in food choices, food purchases, and food preparation. When kids are involved in making the food that goes onto their plates, they often tend to be more interested in actually eating it—even if it’s “healthy.” Our article on how to get your kids in the kitchen lists age-appropriate kitchen tasks for children as young as 2-years old, as well as links to great recipes that kids can help make.
Drink more water. No, water isn’t food and has no nutritional value, per say, but it is important to stay properly hydrated. According to WebMD, water helps energize muscles, keeps your skin looking good, helps you kidneys do their job of flushing toxins, helps maintain normal bowel function, and helps maintain the balance of fluid in our bodies.2 Don’t forget, eating fruits and vegetables is another way your body gets the fluid it needs, but on average it’s good to try to drink eight, 8oz glasses of water a day.3 If you have been told to limit or restrict your fluid intake due to kidney disease or another medical condition, always follow your doctor’s orders.
Host a healthy potluck dinner. Challenge your friends and family members to make a healthy, shareable dish and invite them all over for a health-conscious potluck dinner. Make sure there is a balance of appetizers, salads, main courses, and desserts so you don’t end up with 10 green salads. And yes, desserts can be healthy (or at least healthier) too! Visit Country Living for 40 guilt-free desserts.
Stock your fridge with healthy snacks. Often it’s what we eat in between meals that sabotages our good intentions, so make it easier for you and your family to eat well all day long by keeping a container of washed, prepped fresh vegetables like sliced carrots, celery, fennel, bell peppers, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes in the fridge. Fruit is high in natural sugar, but still a nutritionally sound, whole-food snack, so stock up on apples, oranges, and bananas too. For more great healthy snack ideas and recipes, read our “Snacks on the go” article.
Remember, even small changes can make a difference, so if cooking two deliberately healthy meals a week this March is all you can manage, that’s a great start! Visit Eat Right for resources and materials to help you celebrate National Nutrition Month® and to eat right, bite by bite.
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