March is National Nutrition Month

National Nutrition Month is an annual campaign sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to promote nutrition awareness and education. It originated in 1973 as “National Nutrition Week” and expanded to the month-long observance in 1980 in response to growing public interest in nutrition. The theme changes each year, but it always focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

Get Your Plate in Shape March 2012

During National Nutrition Month and beyond, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) encourages everyone to include healthy foods from all food groups through this year’s theme: “Get Your Plate in Shape.”

“Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products contain the nutrients we need to maintain healthy lifestyles,” says registered dietitian and Academy Spokesperson Andrea Giancoli. “Make sure your eating plan includes foods from all the food groups and in appropriate portions. USDA’s MyPlate is a great tool to guide and help us be mindful of the foods that make up our balanced eating plan.”

Giancoli offers the following recommendations to “Get Your Plate in Shape”:

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

  • Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green, red and orange varieties, as well as beans and peas.
  • When buying canned vegetables, choose “reduced sodium” or “no salt added” whenever possible. Rinsing whole varieties like beans, corn and peas can also reduce sodium levels.
  • Dried and frozen fruits and those canned in water or their own juice are good options when fresh varieties are not available.
  • Make sure every meal and snack has at least one fruit or vegetable or both.

Make at least half your grains whole.

  • Choose brown rice, barley and oats and other whole grains for your sides and ingredients.
  • Switch to 100-percent whole-grain breads, cereals and crackers.
  • Check the ingredients list on food packages to find foods that are made with whole grains.

Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk.

  • Fat-free and low-fat milk have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but less fat and fewer calories.
  • If you are lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk or a calcium-fortified soy beverage.

Vary your protein choices.

  • Eat a variety of foods each week from the protein food group like seafood, nuts and beans, as well as lean meat, poultry and eggs.
  • Eat more plant-based proteins such as nuts, beans, whole grains and whole soy foods like tofu and edamame.
  • At least twice a week, make fish and seafood the protein on your plate.
  • Keep meat and poultry portions lean and limit to three ounces per meal.

Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars.

  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks like regular sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and sweetened teas and coffees. Choose 100-percent fruit juice.
  • Compare sodium in foods and choose those with the least amount listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel.
  • Season foods with spices or herbs instead of salt.
  • Select lean cuts of meat or poultry and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
  • Use heart-healthy oils like olive, canola and sunflower oil in place of butter or shortening when cooking.

Giancoli recommends cooking more often at home, where you are in control of what is in your food. “And don’t forget that exercise and healthful eating are crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” Giancoli says. “Choose activities you enjoy like going for a walk with your family, joining a sports team, dancing or playing with your children. If you don’t have a full 30 minutes, carve out 10 minutes three times a day. Every bit adds up and health benefits increase the more active you are.”

Eat Right with Color March 2011

 

Last year’s theme, “Eat Right with Color,” provides an easy way to focus on improving eating habits – simply include plenty of color on your plate!

“Adding a splash of colorful seasonal foods to your plate makes for more than just a festive meal. A rainbow of foods creates a palette of nutrients, each with a different bundle of potential benefits for a healthful eating plan,” says registered dietitian and ADA Spokesperson Karen Ansel, who offers up this quick fruit and vegetable food color guide:

Green produce indicates antioxidant potential and may help promote healthy vision and reduce cancer risks.

  • Fruits: avocado, apples, grapes, honeydew, kiwi and lime
  • Vegetables: artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, green peppers and leafy greens such as spinach

Orange and deep yellow fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that promote healthy vision and immunity, and reduce the risk of some cancers.

  • Fruits: apricot, cantaloupe, grapefruit, mango, papaya, peach and pineapple
  • Vegetables: carrots, yellow pepper, yellow corn and sweet potatoes

Purple and blue options may have antioxidant and anti-aging benefits and may help with memory, urinary tract health and reduced cancer risks.

  • Fruits: blackberries, blueberries, plums, raisins
  • Vegetables: eggplant, purple cabbage, purple-fleshed potato

Red indicates produce that may help maintain a healthy heart, vision, immunity and may reduce cancer risks.

  • Fruits: cherries, cranberries, pomegranate, red/pink grape fruit, red grapes and watermelon
  • Vegetables: beets, red onions, red peppers, red potatoes, rhubarb and tomatoes

White, tan and brown foods sometimes contain nutrients that may promote heart health and reduce cancer risks.

  • Fruits: banana, brown pear, dates and white peaches
  • Vegetables: cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, turnips, white-fleshed potato and white corn

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