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March is National Nutrition Month! What does that mean? For starters, it’s the month where the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics highlights the importance of healthful eating and physical activity to control weight and prevent chronic diseases. It’s a great time to focus on your nutritional health, whether you’re a model eater or someone who could use some serious help in the nourishment department.
Here are a couple of ways you can make small changes to your usual habits in celebration of food and nutrition this month!
Adding a little spinach to your eggs or some fresh blueberries to your oatmeal in the morning not only increases the fiber content of your meal, but it also boosts the vitamin and mineral values as well. A salad or some raw vegetables, like carrots or broccoli, with hummus are great additions to your usual lunch. Enjoy an apple, or other fresh fruits, with nut butter or yogurt as a snack. And for dinner, have stir-fried or steamed vegetables alongside your choice of protein. These are all great ways to add extra whole foods into your day.
Leave the mayonnaise, margarine, shortening, and hydrogenated oils in favor of your unsaturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats such as avocados, nuts, nut butters, hummus, flaxseeds, and olive oils. Your heart will thank you for it later.
Excess salt is directly correlated to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. It’s harder to control sodium consumption when eating in restaurants, so it’s ideal to cook more of your meals at home. Play around with spices like turmeric, cumin, ginger, garlic, oregano, and basil, to name a few. You will be surprised at how flavorful dishes can be without extra salt. Not to mention, you’ll also be reaping some of the medicinal benefits of fresh (and dried) spices.
Rather than labeling foods good or bad, consider the vitamins, minerals, and fiber available in those foods. For example, let’s look at a hamburger. Instead of just visiting a fast food restaurant, take the time to make your own. Buy high quality, grass-fed beef or turkey. Blend it with ground vegetables or top it with avocado, grilled mushrooms, or peppers. This way, you receive the positive qualities of animal protein, along with some healthy fats and vegetables.
The more you plan, the better you can control your nutrition. Once a week, spend an hour or two making a large batch of something you would enjoy eating and can easily take on-the-go. It can be a batch of chicken with different seasonings on each piece or a whole grain and vegetable stir-fry that lasts for the week.
Check out documentaries like Super Size Me, Food Inc., Fed Up, or Forks Over Knives, to learn more about food quality, portion control, and how your food is made. You might be pleasantly (or unpleasantly) surprised to learn a few new things that might change the way you view your nutrition.
You can find the produce, meat, fish, and eggs in the outer aisles of the grocery stores. These are the foods with the highest quality nutrition, the whole food items that the majority of your diet should consist of.
In order to have a healthy relationship with food, make sure you enjoy small indulgences. There are a variety of foods out there to enjoy, and that includes the occasional piece of pizza or scoop of ice cream. There is nothing less fun than restricting what you eat constantly and then heading for a binge when you just can’t take it anymore. Relax and give yourself permission to have a cookie or a beer, whatever your favorite indulgence may be, once in a while.
National Nutrition Month is the perfect time to find healthy eating habits that work best for you. Learning more about the food you eat and making small changes in how you eat can improve your health and overall lifestyle.
Carrie Gabriel studied nutrition at California State University-Los Angeles and got her RDN through the Coordinated Dietetics Program there. She works as a dietitian for different corporate wellness companies, creating recipes for cooking demos and content for nutrition seminars.
She created her company, Steps2Nutrition, in 2012 in hopes of working more one on one with busy professionals and their specific nutritional needs. She has an advanced certification in weight management and specializes in gluten and dairy free meal preparation for various clients.
You can find some of Carrie’s healthy and delicious recipes and meal tips on her website, www.steps2nutrition.com, and on her Instagram and Twitter account, @steps2nutrition.