SNAP-ed New York:
March is National Nutrition Month
by Wendy Beckman, MS, RD, CDN
We celebrate National Nutrition Month in March, but frankly, for me, it’s always National Nutrition Month! As a Registered Dietitian, I spend a lot of time helping other people make healthier decisions about food, health, and nutrition. I also find myself spending a lot of time thinking about eating. When am I going to eat next? What am I going to eat next? These everyday decisions shape our health over the long term, and they are not always easy.
Here’s the truth: even though I’m a nutrition professional and know the outcomes of eating well, my own diet doesn’t always meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Dietary Guidelines can help everyone eat a more healthful diet that can help to prolong life and prevent certain chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
My simple tricks? Most days, I make half my plate fruits and vegetables, make half my grains whole grains, vary my protein routine to include low fat and vegetable sources, and I always use low fat or fat free versions of milk, yogurt, and cheese. But some days are busy, or I am not feeling well, and I just don’t eat enough healthy options. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Consistency over time is key. We all face those challenges.
This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month is Personalize Your Plate, which promotes creating nutritious meals to meet individuals’ cultural and personal food preferences. National Nutrition Month is a reminder to us to follow the Dietary Guidelines as much as we can. And if you have a bad day, it’s OK to just try to do better tomorrow!
Here are some health tips that offer you some good diet decisions:
Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
1. Eat Breakfast. Start your day with a healthy breakfast that includes lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Try making a breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, low-fat cheese, salsa, and a whole wheat tortilla or a parfait with low-fat plain yogurt, fruit, and whole grain cereal.
2. Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables. Fruits and veggies add color, flavor, and texture plus vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber to your plate. Eating 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables is your daily goal. Experiment with different types, including fresh, frozen, and canned.
3. Watch Portion Sizes. Use half your plate for fruits and vegetables and the other half for grains and lean protein foods. Complete the meal with a serving of fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt. Measuring cups may also help you compare your portions to the recommended serving size.
4. Be Active. Regular physical activity has many health benefits. Start by doing what exercise you can. Children and teens should get 60 or more minutes of physical activity per day, and adults at least two hours and 30 minutes per week. You don't have to hit the gym – take a walk after dinner or put on music and dance at home.
5. Get Cooking. Preparing foods at home can be healthy, rewarding, and cost-effective. Master some kitchen basics, like dicing onions or cooking dried beans.
6. Order Out without Ditching Goals. You can eat out and still stick to your healthy eating plan. The key is to plan ahead, ask questions, and choose foods carefully. Compare nutrition information, if available, and look for healthier options that are grilled, baked, broiled, or steamed.
7. Explore New Foods and Flavors. Add more nutrition and eating pleasure by expanding your range of food choices. When shopping, make a point of selecting a fruit, vegetable, or whole grain that’s new to you or your family.
You can find more tips at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at www.eatright.org. Making small changes over time can help you to incorporate these changes into your lifestyle. Sticking with these changes can help us stay healthy now—and in the future. After all, we want you to make healthy choices all year long, not just in March!
Wendy Beckman, MS, RD, CDN is a Registered Dietitian with the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA). She has over 13 years working as a Registered Dietitian in long term care and acute care settings and currently oversees the NYSOFA SNAP-Ed Nutrition Education program for older adults in New York State.
This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For more information on how to save time, save money and eat healthy, visit www.snapedny.org