Hi there, Mamas! As I’m sure you remember from last year, March is National Nutrition Month. Good nutrition is vital in ensuring that we are able to enjoy our lives by staying healthy. By extension, it can improve our quality of life because healthy people are able to continue activities they enjoy.
If that’s not enough, good nutrition can also:
- Nourish our little ones during pregnancy, prevent certain birth defects, and give us nutrients we need when breastfeeding
- Improve our appearance (by getting vitamins A, C, and E that help with rapidly growing cells, like those in our skin and hair)
- Improve vision
- Keep us “regular“
- Sustain our energy levels (when running after a toddler, for example)
Practicing good nutrition shouldn’t be equivalent of going on a diet. Actually, good nutrition is reflective of general “eating patterns.” According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
“Eating patterns are the combination of foods and drinks you eat over time.”
“A healthy eating pattern is adaptable to a person’s taste preferences, traditions, culture and budget.”
This means that an unhealthy meal or treat every now and then won’t derail all the good you’ve done, but it is important to consistently choose foods and drinks that are more nutritious over those that aren’t.
One major misconception about nutrition is that healthy food either tastes bad or has no flavor at all. That couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, this year’s NNM theme is: Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers a few main points about NNM:
- How, when, why and where we eat are just as important as what we eat. Making sure to enjoy the sight, sounds, memories and interactions associated with eating are essential to developing an overall healthy eating plan.
- Develop a mindful eating pattern that includes nutritious and flavorful foods, while also taking the time to enjoy everything that a healthful and tasty meal brings with it. That’s the best way to savor the flavor of eating right!
- It is possible to enjoy the taste and flavor of food while still maintaining a healthy diet. Take time to enjoy food traditions and find creative, healthful and nutritious ways to add flavor to food. An eating pattern based on the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines and MyPlate recommendations can accommodate the food preferences, cultural tradition and customs of many diverse groups.
- A registered dietitian nutritionist can provide sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences and health-related needs.
How well do you Savor the Flavor?
- What are we doing while we eat? Are we distracted? Driving? Working? Watching TV? (see this article or this one)
- Are we eating because we are actually hungry or just bored? (See A Healthy “See-Food” Diet) Are we shoveling down food because we’re in a rush? Or can we savor our meal and the company we’re with?
- Do we sit at a table to eat or are we at our desk/in the car/standing or some other place?
- Eating with others can make food more enjoyable and it’s a big component of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, plus family dinners are so beneficial for the kiddos
So, what are some ways to boost nutrition?
- Make easy swaps. Use olive or canola oil instead of butter, try spices for flavoring instead of salt
- Add more produce. An easy way to eat healthier without thinking much about it is simply to add a fruit or vegetable with your meal. I round out my breakfasts with fruit and you can bet that we always serve a vegetable at lunch or dinner. By making half your plate fruits or vegetables, you will fill up faster thanks to the high fiber and water content found in these plants, so you’ll eat less!
- Don’t force yourself to eat “health foods” you don’t like. Rather try new things and new preparation methods for a win-win. Foods only turn into nutrition after you eat them – so it’s best if you savor what you do eat. For a wonderful recipe site, check out The Wholesome Dish, created by my colleague and fellow RDN.
- Skip caloric beverages. Calories in drinks can add up a lot more quickly than calories in foods. A 12 ounce soda has around 150 calories and a grande cafe latte from Starbucks has 190 calories (when made with 2% milk). Alcohol and sports drinks keep the extra calories flowing, as well. Instead, try water, tea, or coffee. If you need some flavor, try some fruit in your water or lemon in your tea.
- Balance your plate by using MyPlate.
I love MyPlate! It’s so easy to use and so simple to put into practice. Doing a mental check of MyPlate each time you eat can give you a great nutritive boost!
- Eat with others whenever possible. Who we are dining with is half the experience! Try to eat at least one meal a day with your kids or spouse. Catch lunch with your coworkers. Meet a friend for dinner. Food is one thing that universally brings people together.