Food for Thought – National Nutrition Month Is a Chance to Take Stock

National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign promoted each March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical-activity habits.

“Go Further with Food” is the theme for 2018, and its importance is timely for many reasons. Here are 18 tips to help people do just that.

  1. Eat breakfast. Start your morning with a healthy breakfast that includes lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  2. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies add color, flavor, and texture plus vitamins, minerals, and fiber to your plate.
  3. Watch Portion Sizes. Use half your plate for fruits and vegetables and the other half for grains and lean protein foods. To complete the meal, add a serving of fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt.
  4. Be active. Children and teens should get 60 or more minutes of physical activity per day, and adults should get two hours and 30 minutes per week. You don’t have to hit the gym — take a walk after dinner or play a game of catch or basketball.
  5. Fix healthy snacks. They can sustain your energy levels between meals, especially when they include a combination of foods. Try raw veggies with low-fat cottage cheese, or a tablespoon of peanut butter with an apple or banana. 
  6. Get to know food labels. Reading the Nutrition Facts panel can help you shop and eat or drink smarter. 
  7. Consult an RDN. Registered dietitian nutritionists can help you by providing sound, easy-to-follow, personalized nutrition advice. 
  8. Follow food-safety guidelines. These include regular hand washing, separating raw protein foods from ready-to-eat foods, cooking foods to the appropriate temperature, and refrigerating food promptly.
  9. Drink more water. Stay well-hydrated if you are active, live or work in hot conditions, or are an older adult. 
  10. Get cooking. Preparing foods at home can be healthy, rewarding and cost-effective. Resolve to learn some cooking and kitchen basics.
  11. Dine out without ditching your goals. Compare nutrition information, if available, and look for healthier options that are grilled, baked, broiled, or steamed. 
  12. Enact family meal time. Turn off the TV, phones, and other electronic devices to encourage mealtime talk. Get kids involved in meal planning and cooking, and teach them about good nutrition. 
  13. Banish brown-bag boredom. For lunch, try a whole-wheat pita pocket with veggies and hummus or a low-sodium vegetable soup with whole grain crackers or a salad of mixed greens with low-fat dressing and a hard-boiled egg. 
  14. Explore new foods and flavors. When shopping, make a point of selecting a fruit, vegetable, or whole grain that’s new to you or your family. 
  15. Eat seafood twice a week. Fish and shellfish contain a range of nutrients, including healthy omega-3 fats.
  16. Cut back on added sugars. Foods and drinks with added sugars can contribute empty calories and little or no nutrition.
  17. Experiment with more plant-based meals. Many recipes that use meat and poultry can be made without them. Vegetables, beans, and lentils are all great substitutes.
  18. Reduce food waste. Check out what foods you have on hand before stocking up at the grocery store. Plan meals based on leftovers and only buy what you will use or freeze within a couple of days.