It is time to start making smart eating choices

March is National Nutrition Month
FIT Staff
Mar 12, 2014

March is National Nutrition Month.

This nutrition education and information campaign is sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I believe a healthy diet requires us to balance what we want to eat with what we need to eat.

While taste often drives our food choices, we also need to “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” to maintain and build healthy bodies.

It’s important to choose the most nutritionally packed foods from each of the five MyPlate food groups every day.

The five MyPlate food groups are grains, vegetables, fruits, protein and dairy. When your daily eating plan includes foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, fat-free or low-fat dairy, beans, nuts and seeds in the appropriate amounts, you are able to get many of the nutrients your body needs, with relatively low amounts of calories.

Here are some practical ways to add nutrient-rich foods and beverages to your daily diet:

•Make oatmeal creamier by using fat-free milk instead of water. Mix in some raisins, dried cranberries, cherries or blueberries.

•Make sandwiches on whole-grain bread, such as whole wheat or whole rye. Add slices of avocado, tomato or cucumber to lean roast beef, ham, turkey or chicken.

•When eating out, look for nutrient-rich choices, such as entrée salads with grilled seafood and low-calorie dressing, baked potatoes topped with salsa, grilled vegetables and reduced-fat cheese and yogurt parfaits made with strawberries and blueberries.

•Drink nutrient-rich, low-sugar beverages such as low-fat or fat-free milk or 100 percent fruit juice.

•Top foods with chopped nuts or reduced-fat sharp cheddar to get crunch, flavor and nutrients from the first bite.

•Spend a few minutes to cut and bag vegetables so they are in easy reach of every family member. Some ready-to-eat favorites include red, green or yellow peppers, broccoli or cauliflower flowerets, carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers, snap peas or radishes.

•Serve meals that pack multiple nutrient-rich foods into one dish, such as hearty, broth-based soups that are full of colorful vegetables, beans and lean meat. Serve chili with a dollop of low-fat yogurt. Serve these with whole-grain breads or rolls.

•For dessert, enjoy a tropical treat by blending mango, plain low-fat milk, ice and a splash of pineapple juice, or stir chocolate syrup into a cup of coffee-flavored yogurt, freeze and enjoy.

We all want to enjoy the foods we eat. Achieving balance and building a healthier diet can be simple and stress-free. It is important to select nutrient-rich foods and beverages first; this helps you make better choices that are rich in taste and good for you.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate website (www.choosemyplate.gov) has lots of guidelines for children, adults and seniors. It also has SuperTracker, a great tool that helps you plan, analyze and track your diet and physical activity. You can find out what and how much to eat; track foods, physical activities and weight; and personalize with goal setting, virtual coaching and journaling.

For more information on National Nutrition Month, visit the Eating Right website at www.eatright.org .