March is National Nutrition Month, an educational campaign that reminds us of the importance of choosing more healthful foods and the importance of pairing diet with exercise. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes five guidelines for nutrition:
- Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan.
Make eating healthy foods a part of your day-to-day life.
- Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount.
Choose healthier options in each of the food groups but make sure you’re eating right for your lifestyle.
- Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake.
- Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.
- Support healthy eating patterns for all. We can all encourage each other to choose healthier foods.
A healthy eating pattern includes a diet that limits saturated and trans, added sugars, and sodium, but is rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and complex carbs. Making changes to your diet can start by first tracking what you currently consume. There are many apps like MyFitnessPal that can help you assess your diet.
Once you have a better understanding of what you currently eat or drink, improving your diet doesn’t have to happen all at once. In fact, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests making small changes to your diet gradually over time. One way to do this is choosing one of your favorite nutrient-rich foods (perhaps a favorite veggie) to add to a meal, or swapping a food high in saturated fats like ground beef for one that is lower in saturated fats like ground turkey. Other tips include packing healthy snacks to bring to class such as carrots and hummus, or making sure you have a water bottle with you to stay hydrated without turning to sodas or energy drinks.
Building a healthy plate is easy when you make half your plate fruits and vegetables. It’s also a great way to add color, flavor and texture plus vitamins, minerals and fiber. All this is packed in fruits and vegetables that are low in calories and fat. Make 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables your daily goal. Try the following tips to enjoy more fruits and vegetables every day.
1. Variety abounds when using vegetables as pizza topping. Try broccoli, spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini.
2. Mix up a breakfast smoothie made with low-fat milk, frozen strawberries and a banana.
3. Make a veggie wrap with roasted vegetables and low-fat cheese rolled in a whole-wheat tortilla.
4. Try crunchy vegetables instead of chips with your favorite low-fat salad dressing for dipping.
5. Grill colorful vegetable kabobs packed with tomatoes, green and red peppers, mushrooms and onions.
6. Add color to salads with baby carrots, grape tomatoes, spinach leaves or mandarin oranges.
7. Keep cut vegetables handy for mid-afternoon snacks, side dishes, lunch box additions or a quick nibble while waiting for dinner. Ready-to-eat favorites: red, green or yellow peppers, broccoli or cauliflower florets, carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers, snap peas or whole radishes. 20 Ways to Enjoy More Fruits and Vegetables Eat Right Food, Nutrition and Health Tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
8. Place colorful fruit where everyone can easily grab something for a snack-on-therun. Keep a bowl of fresh, just ripe whole fruit in the center of your kitchen or dining table.
9. Get saucy with fruit. Puree apples, berries, peaches or pears in a blender for a thick, sweet sauce on grilled or broiled seafood or poultry, or on pancakes, French toast or waffles.
10. Stuff an omelet with vegetables. Turn any omelet into a hearty meal with broccoli, squash, carrots, peppers, tomatoes or onions with low-fat sharp cheddar cheese.
11. “Sandwich” in fruits and vegetables. Add pizzazz to sandwiches with sliced pineapple, apple, peppers, cucumber and tomato as fillings.
12. Wake up to fruit. Make a habit of adding fruit to your morning oatmeal, ready-to-eat cereal, yogurt or toaster waffle.
13. Top a baked potato with beans and salsa or broccoli and low-fat cheese.
14. Microwave a cup of vegetable soup as a snack or with a sandwich for lunch.
15. Add grated, shredded or chopped vegetables such as zucchini, spinach and carrots to lasagna, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, pasta sauce and rice dishes.
16. Make fruit your dessert: Slice a banana lengthwise and top with a scoop of low-fat frozen yogurt. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of chopped nuts.
17. Stock your freezer with frozen vegetables to steam or stir-fry for a quick side dish.
18. Make your main dish a salad of dark, leafy greens and other colorful vegetables. Add chickpeas or edamame (fresh soybeans). Top with low-fat dressing.
19. Fruit on the grill: Make kabobs with pineapple, peaches and banana. Grill on low heat until fruit is hot and slightly golden.
20. Dip: Whole wheat pita wedges in hummus, baked tortilla chips in salsa, strawberries or apple slices in low-fat yogurt, or graham crackers in applesauce.