March is National Nutrition Month. It was created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) as a campaign to educate people about the importance of developing good eating and physical activity habits.
The campaign’s logo for this year is “Get Your Plate in Shape”!
What easy steps can you start implementing this month to get your plate in shape?
- Vary your proteins: Try to incorporate more legumes and beans instead of red meat. A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine that looked over the diets of 110,000 people over the period of 2o years found that substitution of red meat with fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains was associated with a significantly lower risk of mortality. So this month, if you already consume more than 2 to 3 servings per week, try to cut down. Choose one day to go meatless but don’t munch on fries instead. Try lentils, black beans, red kidney beans, garbanzo beans. The list goes on and there are thousands of recipes out there that are healthy and waiting for you to give them a try.
- Try new vegetables and fruits: Have you labeled yourself a fruit or vegetable hater? Maybe you’ve been trying some you didn’t like or you’ve been cooking them the wrong way. This week, when you are shopping, pick up a fruit you’ve never tried before and try stir-frying or roasting your vegetables instead of boiling the life out of them! Try different colored-vegetables each time. You’ll end up finding something to your taste. I love my fruits and vegetables but I found myself stuck in a rut with apples, lemons and pears; so for the past three weeks I’ve been adventurous with some exotic fruits I have never tasted before. So far, I’ve tickled my taste buds with mangosteen, star fruit, and dragon fruit; all of which I really liked. They are pretty expensive where I live and I’ll stick with the local produce on a regular basis but I can’t help trying new things.
- Don’t drink your calories: As the weather is getting warmer and you find yourself reaching for that soda, think again! People who consume 1 can of soda a day will gain 7 kilograms (15 pounds) over the course of 1 year! Not to forget the heaping intake of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, additives and preservatives. You’re not better off with the diet versions and their artificial sweeteners. Drink water instead. You can freshen it up with a squeeze of lemon or a few slices of cucumber.
- Choose whole grains: As with fruits and vegetables, choose a grain this week and experiment with its cooking. I have discussed in a previous post grains and their benefits. Switch to whole-wheat bread, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta instead of the white if you haven’t already. You’ll love the nuttiness and appreciate them more for their added health benefits with the extra fiber, vitamins and minerals.
- Eat your plate, but make it smaller. Portion control is key when trying to maintain or lose weight. Fill your plate and store the leftovers and don’t eat in front of the TV or laptop. Take your time to chew on your food mindfully. If dining out, ask upfront to divide your portion and take the rest home.
Being healthy does not start and end with a day or month. National Nutrition Month is just a reminder for us to adapt the healthy lifestyle and start making changes that will last a lifetime. Check out the ChooseMyplate website and its Super Tracker applications where you can compare foods, track your food intake and physical activity and make informed choices every day.