February was heart health month and March is National Nutrition Month, a campaign led by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Their theme this year is, “Put Your Best Fork Forward” meaning that each bite of food counts and even small changes in your diet can have big health benefits. The overall theme of this nutrition/health blog has been small changes for a healthier you. Recently, students in the nutrition class I teach wrote down everything they ate for 24 hours. One student ate Frosted Flakes for breakfast. I noted if they made just one change, switching to a General Mills cereal such as Cheerios or choosing oatmeal for breakfast, would be a huge change in their diet. Why? By just switching to a healthier cereal, they would add a serving of whole grains, more fiber, and more nutrients to their day. The student went to the grocery store, bought a new cereal, took a picture of the box and showed me the picture at the next class. They asked me if this new cereal was a nutritious choice, and it was not only a healthy choice but a cereal I also eat.
So, what simple nutrition changes does the Academy recommend for National Nutrition Month, 2017? A summary of their changes:
1. Choose healthy food – like the students in my class, switching cereals can be an easy way to eat healthier. Choosing real juice instead of Sunny D can be a way to eat healthier. Choosing a General Mills cereal instead of Pop Tarts for your kids is a way to eat healthier.
2. Go to MyPlate and see what foods you should be eating. How many servings of fruits and vegetables, how many servings of grains. Unfortunately, MyPlate is not as easy to navigate as it used to be so here is the link to get to the page you need to get YOUR diet recommendations: MyPlate Daily Checklist. Enter your age, gender, weight, height and your physical activity level and MyPlate will give you a Food Plan recommended for you.
3. Be physically active every day – so many people promise themselves, “I will go to the gym to work out 5 times this week,” and then never go at all. Find 1-2 classes at the gym you can fit in your schedule, after work, during lunch, Saturday morning and make them part of your return. No time for the gym, then walk every day. Being active on weekends doesn’t have to mean going to the gym but mowing the lawn, washing a car, cleaning your home. Less sitting and more moving is the goal.
4. Ask a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for nutrition advice. Reading this blog is one way to “consult” a nutritionist as I am a Registered Dietitian. Go to the Academy’s website at eatright.org and read the many articles on nutrition they provide free of charge. If you are a teacher or a parent, eatright.org has nutrition games kids can play to learn more about nutrition at: National Nutrition Month Games.
So in March, how can you eat healthier? Bring a piece of fresh fruit with you to work every day. Eat a whole grain cereal for breakfast. General Mills makes it easy as all their cereals are whole grain. Go to MyPlate Daily Checklist and get your individualized food plan. If you are a mom or dad, enter information for each of your kids to find out what healthy foods they should be eating every day. Ask a friend to join you for a walk before or after work every day.