March is National Nutrition Month®, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and yours truly, reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It comes at a good time too, I think. Many of us have gotten away from those New Year's Resolutions, and spring is in the air, so it's time to check in with your diet and set some health-focused goals.
The theme of this year's National Nutrition Month® is Put Your Best Fork Forward, which serves as a reminder that each one of us holds the tool to make healthier food choices. Small changes made now will add up over time, improving health each day.
Here are a few tips to get you started with putting your best fork forward.
- Make your calories count. Think about the foods you are eating on a regular basis...are they filled with vitamins, minerals, fiber? Or are they empty calories that don't have much to offer nutritionally? Focus on getting more nutrient dense foods in your diet, which have lots of good nutrition for fewer calories. Think dark green, orange and red fruits and veggies, beans, lean proteins, nuts, salmon and other healthy fats, just to name a few.
- Focus on variety. There are sooo many nutrients and phytochemicals out there in the nutrient dense foods previously mentioned, and no one or two foods that will provide them all. Eat a variety of foods from all the food groups offers the best change of getting all the nutrients your body needs.
- Stock up on nutritious foods. Most of us have good intentions when it comes to eating healthy, but what happens when you have to work late, you didn't have time to stop at the store, and your family is chomping at the bit for dinner? Chances are good carry-out or pizza delivery will follow. But what if you already had a plan for that night's dinner and the ingredients were there and ready to use? Having the healthy food at your finger tips and a meal already thought through is critical for healthy meals for the family. Snacks, too! Make the fruits, veggies and whole grains as convenient as the 100 calorie packs and Goldfish crackers by pre-washing and/or pre-packaging them in snack sized containers.
- Remove temptation. If your favorite treats are in your cupboard and tend to sway you away from healthier food choices, get rid of them! Go buy an individually sized treat when you really need one, don't keep them stocked in the house for daily consumption.
- Eat mindfully. Pay attention to what you are eating, how it tastes and how it makes you feel. Ever sit down with a snack while you are preoccupied, and then not even remember eating it? What fun is that? Enjoy and appreciate your food, and listen to what your body tells you about your hunger and fullness and how a food makes you feel. Noticing how well you feel after a nutritious meal or snack may serve as a great motivator.
Lastly, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has put together a fabulous list of recipes
. Scroll through these to find something new to try. Practice cooking more at home and experiment with healthier ingredients. The Fish Tacos with Corn Salsa, Pizza Hummus, Bunny Bread and Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip recipes have made it to my list!