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March is National Nutrition Month

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Every year in the month of March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) celebrates National Nutrition Month to raise awareness for the importance of making smart food choices and developing thoughtful eating and physical activity habits.

This year’s theme for National Nutrition month is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” The theme recognizes that individuals have the ability to make healthy food choices in their lives. Even small, positive changes can have impact overtime.

A diet goal for individuals could be to increase diet variety. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines diet variety as, “A diverse assortment of foods and beverages across and within all food groups and subgroups selected to fulfill the recommended amounts without exceeding the limits for calories and other dietary components.”

Basically, this is saying that variety is like getting all the good benefits from food without getting too much food and exceeding calories. Food can provide the following nutrients: water, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Certain foods are higher in one type of nutrient, and some have multiple nutrients. For example, non-fat yogurt provides protein, carbohydrates and the mineral calcium. Bananas provide carbohydrates, but they also provide the mineral potassium. The goal is to have a wide variety of foods to provide a spectrum of the nutrients.

Ways to Add Variety to Your Diet

Take a look at your typical weekly diet. Are you finding that you’re a little too routine and maybe don’t get enough variety? It can be very common for individuals to fall into a comfortable pattern, but I challenge you to increase your diet variety, and there are some ways of accomplishing this:

  • First, take a look at your fruit and vegetable intake—The goal is for individuals to have five, one cup servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Many Americans don’t accomplish this. Fresh, frozen, reduced-sodium canned and 100 percent juice products all count toward the goal of five servings. Increasing intake of fruits and vegetables increases your vitamin and mineral intake, which is great for our health.
  • Dust off that cookbook—Recipes and cookbooks can be a place for great inspiration. If you don’t already have cookbooks at home, I often recommend going to a resale shop or a discount book store to look for cookbooks that interest you. If you have access to the Internet, there are many consumer websites with reviews you can use too.
  • Experiment with vegetarian proteins—Plant-based protein foods are good for our bodies as they often provide fiber in addition to protein. Plant-based proteins include beans and legumes, soy, nuts, nut butters, and seeds. Starting with beans as a substitute for meat in a recipe can be a good start.
  • Interchange your grains—Americans often consume wheat products, but there are other grains that are growing in popularity. Quinoa, farro, amaranth and barley, to name a few, are whole grains that provide carbohydrates, fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. Grains can differ in the amount of vitamins and minerals they provide. So, varying can increase exposure to different nutrients.

Change can often times be difficult. Allow yourself time to vary your routine. If you still feel like you’re struggling with meal planning and choosing healthy foods, reach out to a local registered dietitian.

Source: National Nutrition Month Toolkit from www.eatright.org

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