March is National Nutrition Month! What started as a weeklong event in 1973, became a month long celebration in 1980 in response to growing public interest in nutrition. This year the theme is “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle”.
All year long, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages Americans to eat healthy. Each year in March, the organization focuses on nutrition awareness with a specific theme. This year’s theme encourages Americans to adopt a healthy lifestyle that is focused on consuming less calories, making informed food choices and getting daily exercise in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, decrease the risk of chronic disease and overall promote health.
What are some ways to “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle”?
1. Know your calorie needs. The amount of daily calories that a teenage boy needs is much different than what a fifty year old woman needs. Our calorie needs decrease as we age. If we continue to eat the same amount of calories per day that we did when we were twenty, we are going to slowly gain weight each year. When trying to lose weight, never go below 1200 calories/day for women, and 1800 calories for men. For maintenance, 1800 calories is usually adequate for women, and 2400 calories for men.
2. Read food labels. Look at how many servings per container, serving size, and calories in particular. Measure your foods. You might think you are eating only one serving of something, but unless you take the time to measure it, you don’t know for sure and could be underestimating your calorie intake.
3. Choose whole, natural foods and try to minimize processed foods. Processed foods are anything in a box, bag, can, or package. Cooking from “scratch” is not difficult, it just takes a little more planning so that you have the ingredients you need for a recipe.
4. Choose unrefined over refined foods. Choose brown rice over white rice, and whole grains, such as quinoa, whole wheat pasta, and high fiber cereals.
5. Decrease intake of fat, salt, and sugar. Sounds hard, but if you cut out processed foods and read labels, it is much easier.
6. Increase intake and fruits and vegetables. Minimally aim for five servings per day in any combination. And again, fresh or frozen is best.
7. Eat five to six times per day. This usually means three main meals and two snacks. Eating this way prevents you from overeating and also keeps your blood sugar levels steady so energy doesn’t lag.
8. Get moving. Daily exercise of 30 minutes is a must for many reasons. Not only does it decrease fat, strengthen and build muscle, but it also keeps your heart, lungs and bones healthy and strong.
When you focus on an overall healthy lifestyle and aim to make informed choices of what you eat, it becomes a way of life and not just a “diet”. Look at the big picture and aim to eat healthy 80% of the time. Indulge on occasion, but balance it out with exercise and choosing healthy foods the majority of the time.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy’s website at eatright.org. You can find other helpful tips, recipes, and nutrition education resources.