March is National Nutrition Month

According to eatright,  National Nutrition Month® is an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. During the month of March, everyone is invited to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits. This blog will look at each weekly theme and delve deeper into 3 items per theme. These good eating habits can be gradually incorporated at any time not just in March.

Week One: Eat a variety of nutritious foods every day!

Include healthful foods from all food groups. There are six main food groups, and it is a good idea to chose nutrient dense foods from each for a well-balanced diet. A nutrient-dense food is one that provides vitamins, minerals and other substances that have health benefits. The food groups are vegetables, fruit, grains, dairy, protein, and oils.

Hydrate healthfully. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men and about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women. These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages, and food. About 20% of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks.

Learn how to read Nutrition Facts Panels. People look at food labels for a variety of reasons. But whatever the reason, many consumers would like to know how to use this information more effectively and easily. The FDA offers an in-depth article on how to correctly read food labels. It covers such things as serving information, calories, nutrients, percent daily value, and label variations. If you or someone you are shopping for has any food allergies or intolerances, it is especially important to further check the ingredient list for each item not just the nutrition label.

Week Two: Plan your meals each week!

Use a grocery list to shop for healthful foods. Healthline offers a step-by-step guide to creating helpful grocery lists in their article, How to Make a Healthy Grocery Shopping List.  Here are a few tidbits from that article. A grocery list is a handy tool that can help you navigate the store with ease and help you stick to your healthy eating plan. A well-thought-out grocery list is not only a memory aide, but it can also keep you on track, minimizing impulse buying while saving you money. It will also set you up for success even when you are tight on time, helping you keep nutritious food on hand to eat all week.

Be menu-savvy when dining out or ordering takeout. Restaurant food is meant to look, smell, and taste great. This often means that nutrition can sometimes fall by the wayside when menus feature main dishes drenched in butter or rich sauces, salads with creamy dressings, and few whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The site behind this weekly layout, eatright, has a detailed article entitled 7 Tips for Healthy Dining Out to help combat this item. The article’s main takeaways are plan ahead, do not split your plate (better to eyeball a correct serving size), add healthy items to your meal, don’t go overly hungry, watch for the wording (broiled vs creamy etc.), and do not be afraid to ask your server for assistance.

Fuel for school or work with a healthful breakfast. According to WebMD, breakfast kick-starts your metabolism, helping you burn calories throughout the day. It also gives you the energy you need to get things done and helps you focus at work or at school.  Many studies have linked eating breakfast to good health, including better memory and concentration, lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, and lower chances of getting diabetes, heart disease, and being overweight. Skipping the morning meal can throw off your body’s rhythm of fasting and eating. When you wake up, the blood sugar your body needs to make your muscles and brain work their best is usually low. Breakfast helps replenish it.

Week Three: Learn skills to create tasty meals!

Share meals with people who live with you or virtually, when possible. I am sure that nearly everyone can agree that sharing a meal with friends or family can make for a more enjoyable dining experience and often helps control how much one eats. Thanks to technology that same sort of experience can be obtained even when you are not in the same room, state, country, or even continent. Virtual dinner parties are slowly becoming what in person parties were in the past. Delish’s article How To Throw A Virtual Dinner Party breaks down the ins and outs of throwing a successful online dinner party so that anyone from novice to expert can benefit from the lessons. It covers everything from suggested apps/programs to use, ideas for décor, and various menu options to choose from.

Reduce food waste. Food waste is a bigger problem than many people realize. In fact, nearly one-third of all food produced in the world is discarded or wasted for various reasons. That equates to nearly 1.3 billion tons every year. Healthline provides an article on 20 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Food Waste. Some of these ideas include shop smart, store foods correctly, learn to preserve, save leftovers and many more.

Try new flavors and foods. Another article from eatright, 7 Ways to Enhance the Flavor of Your Meals, explores simple ways to enhance/alter the flavor of meals cooked from home. To maximize food’s flavor and nutrition, start with high-quality ingredients. They do not need to be the most expensive foods. It is also important to handle and store foods properly, because poor storage destroys flavor and quality. Cooking cannot improve poor-quality foods, but it can enhance the flavors of high-quality foods.

Week Four: Consult a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)!

Ask your doctor for a referral to an RDN. Eatright offers an article on this very topic, RDNs and Medical Nutrition Therapy Services. Health professionals agree that nutrition services are one of the first treatments that individuals should receive to improve conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. The RDN often acts as part of a medical team, in various practice settings, such as hospitals, physician offices, private practice and other health care facilities. Your primary care doctor should be able to refer you to a RDN that fits your individual needs.

Receive personalized nutrition advice to meet your goals. Together with a registered dietitian nutritionist, you will set nutrition goals to improve your health. They will review your eating habits and lifestyle. They will also provide a thorough assessment of your nutritional status. Finally, they will give you a personalized nutrition treatment plan.

Find an RDN who is specialized to serve your unique needs. Medical nutrition therapy is covered by a variety of insurance plans. Under the Medicare Part B Program, you can receive nutrition services to help improve your health. Medicare Part B covers medical nutrition therapy for diabetes and kidney disease or if you have had a kidney transplant within the last 36 months.  Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plans may also offer additional benefits, including coverage beyond the conditions covered by traditional Medicare. If you have private insurance (such as through your employer), check with your insurance plan for specific medical nutrition therapy coverage details. Your plan may cover nutrition counseling for a wide variety of chronic conditions and health concerns, such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

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