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February 29, 2016

Take Time to Savor the Flavor of Eating Right: March is National Nutrition Month!


Every March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrates National Nutrition Month. As a month-long celebration of food and nutrition, National Nutrition Month aims to get people thinking about making informed food choices that will benefit their health.

Each year the Academy selects a fun nutrition-related theme to set the tone for National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme, “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right” encourages everyone to take time to appreciate the pleasures, great flavors, and social experiences food can add to their lives. We all have our own unique and meaningful food traditions. National Nutrition Month is a great time to pause and take a moment to ensure we are embracing those traditions fully and enjoying delicious foods that nourish our bodies and lives. 

Eating right starts with making healthy choices most of the time. Whether you are a nutrition-newbie or a seasoned veteran, taking time to periodically reassess your eating patterns is a great habit to develop. You can use the “rate your plate” activity on the next page to quickly assess your own eating patterns and healthy habits. Usually we all have a few areas that we can improve upon!

There are some simple ways to improve your eating pattern that provide maximal health benefits. You can start by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, choosing whole grains instead of refined grains, and avoiding foods that are high in added sugar, salt or saturated fats like butter or processed meats. Choosing healthier beverages like water and low-fat milk more often and limiting sugary beverages like juices and sodas reduces added sugars and empty calories. Take advantage of the health benefits of a plant-based diet and try out a couple of meatless meals per week, or swap the meat for seafood (consumption of at least 8 oz of seafood per week is recommended to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease). Making a meal plan each week and sticking to it can help keep your healthy patterns on track, save you money and reduce food waste.

Once you’ve built your healthy foundation by mastering the above tips, you may want to kick it up a notch by adding more flavor to your meals in a healthy way. This can make mealtime even more enjoyable for you and keep healthy eating fresh and exciting. There are many things you can do to add extra flavor to meals without adding sugar, salt or fat. Try using fresh herbs to add a punch of flavor to dishes, or add a tangy taste with citrus juice (lemon, lime, orange) or vinegars. Use aromatic ingredients generously (like onion, garlic, fresh ginger, shallots and chili peppers) to take dishes to the next level. Grilling or roasting vegetables at high heat can give them a sweet, smoky and irresistible flavor. Be adventurous and try new-to-you ingredients and recipes!

Finally, truly savoring your mealtimes can help you stick with your healthy eating habits and promote a positive relationship with food that can last a lifetime. Investing a bit of time into learning to cook your meals at home reaps long-term benefits. Many people find the reward of sitting down to a meal they’ve taken time to prepare brings a sense of satisfaction and pride, and home-cooked meals are almost always healthier than store-bought prepared foods or restaurant meals. Cooking may even become a relaxing and fun hobby once you get the hang of it!

Savoring mealtimes also means enjoying your food in the company of others as often as possible. Making family meal time a fun ritual provides an opportunity to connect with your loved ones on a regular basis. Avoiding distractions while you eat by doing things like putting your phone away and turning off the television gives you the opportunity to appreciate your meals.

So this March, remember to slow down and take a moment to assess your eating patterns and healthy habits. Is there room for improvement? What simple steps can you take to help yourself truly savor the flavor of eating right? Happy National Nutrition Month from the dietitians here at Food and Friends!

RATE YOUR PLATE- from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Do you:
Most days
Sometimes
Never
Consider nutrition when making food choices?
2
1
0
Avoid skipping meals?
2
1
0
Include 3 or more whole-grain foods daily?
2
1
0
Eat at least 2 ½ cups of veggies daily?
2
1
0
Vary veggies with dark green and orange varieties?
2
1
0
Eat at least 2 cups of fruit daily?
2
1
0
Get 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt daily?
2
1
0
Choose lean meats and poultry?
2
1
0
Vary protein choices with more fish, beans and nuts?
2
1
0
Limit added sugars, salt and solid fats?
2
1
0

Now add up your points to get your total score and see your results below:

16 – 20 points:
Healthy eating seems to be your habit already!
10 – 15 points:
You’re on track. A few easy changes will make your total eating plan healthier.
0 – 9 points:
Sometimes you may eat smart. For good health, add more smart choices to your eating plan.


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