By Dana Sanchez, RDN
National Nutrition Month® is an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This event is held during the month of March, and everyone is invited to learn about making informed food choices while developing healthful eating and physical activity habits. As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), the month of March means that I get to geek out about fruits, veggies and all things food, health, and nutrition. If you are looking to get involved in this month’s holiday with me, here are five simple steps to make healthier changes in your daily lifestyle.
Create Tasty Foods at Home
One simple change you can make is to cook more meals at home. Cooking at home allows you to control the ingredients that go into your food, and it can be a fun activity to do with family or friends.
Control Your Portion Size
Another way to eat right is to focus on portion size. Oftentimes, we eat more than we realize because we’re not paying attention to how much we’re eating. By being mindful of portion sizes, we can make sure that we’re not overeating.
Consider eating a variety of nutritious foods from all food groups
- Fruits: choose whole, cut or pureed fruits. These can be fresh, frozen, dried, or canned in 100% fruit juice. Enjoy fruit with your meal or as a snack. Fruit is a great substitute for dessert!
- Vegetables: trial a variety of colorful veggies prepared in healthful ways such as steamed, sauteed, roasted or even raw. Fresh, frozen or canned vegetables are great on salads, as sides, or even as the main dish.
- Whole Grains: Look for whole grains as the first ingredient on the nutrition label. Instead of regular long-grain white rice, consider jasmine rice, basmati rice, brown rice, barley, or quinoa. Consider making a sandwich with 100% whole wheat wraps or rye bread. Substitute whole-wheat pasta for white pasta to add more fiber to a meal.
- Protein: Eat a wide variety of protein containing foods such as: seafood, beans, peas and lentils, unsalted nuts and seeds, soy products, eggs, a lean meats and poultry. Have you considered a meatless meal before? Consider using beans in place of animal protein on a dish.
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy options: Choose fat-free milk and yogurt to reduce saturated fat intake. Replace condiments such as sour cream with fat-free Greek yogurt
- Reduce Sources of Added Sugars: Consider adding your own spices and fruits to plain fat-free yogurt. Use jams and jellies that have no added sugar. Consider water over other sweetened beverages. Don’t like plain water? Consider utilizing a fruit infuser to give your water a splash of flavor.
Get to Know Food Labels
Reading the nutrition facts label can help you shop, eat, and drink smarter.
Make Physical Activity Part of Your Day
- Physical activity should be done regularly – meaning most days of the week. How often, how long and the intensity of the activity can make a difference, too. Research has shown that regular physical activity can lead to better health, including a reduced risk for many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. For adults, the recommendation is 150 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.
- Find an activity that you enjoy! You will be more likely to want to participate if it is an activity that you enjoy.
Lastly, don’t overwhelm yourself with too many changes at one time. Everyone must start somewhere! Start with one day and one meal at a time. Need some help developing that plan? Consider the following:
Meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Individualized Nutrition Advice
A registered dietitian nutritionist or RDN, can help you develop a safe and realistic eating plan! Plus, they can guide and motivate you with creative strategies for meal planning, grocery shopping and mindful eating.
How to find and RDN in your area:
- Reach out to your P3 Care Manager for assistance
- Follow this link to find a nutrition expert in your area: https://www.eatright.org/find-a-nutrition-expert