March is National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” is a reminder that every bite counts! Some National Nutrition Month tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics include:
Create an eating style that includes a variety of healthy foods
Cook more at home and experiment with healthier ingredients
Remember that how much you eat is just as important as what you eat
Be physically active most days of the week by finding activities you enjoy, and
Meet with a registered dietitian nutritionist, or RDN, for personalized nutrition advice to help manage your weight and lower health risks
The 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest starting with small changes in order to make healthier lasting changes you can enjoy. We all have good intentions, but sometimes it is hard to know where to start. The tips above may look overwhelming, but just choose one area to start with at a time.
Do you find yourself eating the same old foods day in and day out? Try to add a little variety — a new fruit or vegetable or at least one you haven’t had in a while.
If you’re not confident in cooking with a new vegetable look online for inspiration. There are so many great resources for healthy recipes such as Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Recipes page, websites for the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association, Eating Well, Cooking Light and even Pinterest.
The USDA’s Supertracker website has an application where you can enter a recipe you love from home and experiment with substituting healthier ingredients to see what effect it has on the nutrition facts.
For example, if you have a recipe that calls for sautéing vegetables in 4 tablespoons of butter, you can change this to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and see the decrease in calories and saturated fat right in front of your eyes!
Remembering that how much you eat is just as important as what you eat is essential. Just because a food is healthy, doesn’t mean we can eat an unlimited amount. More often than not, we are eating more calories than we estimate. Use an app like the USDA’s Supertracker or My Fitness Pal to track your intake for a few days and see if you are eating what you think you are. Make sure to measure your portions as even healthy foods can tip the calorie scale if we aren’t watching it. When I have a patient struggling with a weight loss plateau, even though they are eating healthy and exercising, the first thing we do is go back to measuring portion sizes again.
Being physically active may sound like a chore, especially when the weather isn’t beautiful. That is why it is important to find activities you enjoy. It may be too cold to walk outside, but what about a snowshoe hike to watch the sunset from the bluff?
Maybe you don’t feel like doing a full exercise video every day, but what about a 10 minute video? Or learning the choreography for your favorite music video? I can tell you from experience that trying to keep up with Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” dance moves will leave you laughing and sweating without feeling like you’re working out.
Meeting with a dietitian is a great way to get some personalized advice to help you meet your health goals. If you aren’t sure you would like a one-on-one consultation, a group weight management class, such as the Mayo Clinic Diet Program, may be a good option. It is a 10-week class, which provides information on weight loss, nutrition, physical activity and other healthy lifestyle behaviors. It is led by expert facilitators, including a registered dietitian nutritionist, an exercise physiologist and a psychology counselor. The next session starts April 5. Hurry because registration is limited! For more information or to register call 608-392-9587. To learn more about the program and other classes, visit www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org.
A couple other key habits to a healthier diet are drinking more water and eating more vegetables and whole grains. Sip on this tasty infused water for a refreshing treat without extra calories or sugar. This whole grain pasta salad is a great way to add some whole grains and veggies and get a little taste of spring.