It seems like everything has a designated month nowadays, and nutrition is no exception. March is National Nutrition Month (NNM)!
Good nutrition can impact our lives in many ways: from the prevention of diseases (such as cancer and heart disease), to the management of diseases (everything from lactose intolerance to diabetes to celiac disease to high cholesterol), to weight management and general healthy living. NNM is sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and this year’s theme is “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day.”
During NNM, the Academy focuses attention on “the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.” The message of this year’s NNM emphasizes how a registered dietitian can assist people with eating healthfully in a manner that works for them. A person can give the best possible advice, but if it seems impossible to apply, it doesn’t do any good. Dietitians strive to help people make healthier choices every day. To become a registered dietitian (RD), an individual must earn at least a bachelor’s degree, complete a supervised practice program, and pass a registration examination–so they really know their stuff. Plus the counseling they provide is based on scientific evidence, not the latest trend. When seeking nutrition counseling, look for RD credentials, not just “nutritionist”– there are no regulations on the term “nutritionist,” so anyone can use that title.
An RD will work with you to “eat right, your way, every day.” He or she will gather information about YOUR food preferences, YOUR lifestyle and activity level, YOUR health status, and YOUR goals, and together, you will design a plan that you can stick to every day. Does eating right seem too overwhelming? Your RD will work with you to break your long-term goals into smaller, manageable short-term goals. Need motivation? An RD can give you that as well. Have a chronic disease? Your dietitian can help you determine foods and a style of eating to manage symptoms. Want recipe suggestions that fit with your goals? You guessed it! An RD can help there, as well.
All foods can fit in a healthy eating plan. A family member’s birthday or business meeting over lunch is no reason to throw in the towel for healthy eating. Working with a dietitian can help you incorporate balance, moderation, and variety into your eating habits, which research has shown can improve long-term health. These aren’t concepts used by most fad diets; in fact, many fad diets encourage complete elimination of one or more food groups! This exclusion of specific types of foods can lead to nutrient deficiencies and other negative effects. Until you are able to make an appointment with your RD, remember these tips for healthful nutrition:
- Balance – Keeping your food intake (calories in) in balance with activity (calories out) is a great recipe for weight management. Balancing intake and expenditure can help you keep a healthy weight, which is helpful in disease prevention and progression. Don’t force yourself to do activities you find boring, but rather choose activities you enjoy. Try incorporating friends and family and use your exercise time to socialize as well. This can help keep you motivated. Be sure to talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
- Moderation – Maintaining moderation in your diet will help you have that piece of cake without the frustration of weight gain. It is okay to indulge every now and then (and is it really realistic to think that you’ll never have a sweet again?), but balance your treats with making healthier, more nutrient-dense choices the rest of the day and most days of the week.
- Variety – It’s the spice of life! Variety can also decrease boredom when choosing healthy foods. Try to select a food from multiple groups each time you eat. Grains provide our major source of energy. Protein helps to replenish our muscle mass and help with our body’s structure. Dairy is important with building strong bones. Fruits and vegetables provide us with many vitamins and minerals. Not only do you want to incorporate all food groups into your diet, but variety within groups is beneficial as well. Eating a rainbow of fruits and veggies each day can provide different phytochemicals, which have many benefits, including reducing cancer risk. Try to get all the nutrients your body needs through food, versus supplements. Using herbs and spices (not salt!) to season foods can also please our palate, while adding very little calories and a lot of antioxidant bang!
How do you eat right every day?
Written by: Kelly Houston, Dietetic Intern
Photo pulished with permission from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics