March has been designated National Nutrition Month. This year’s campaign, themed “Eat Right, Bite by Bite,” was chosen to help promote healthy eating by choosing a variety of foods every day as well as planning and creating healthful meals each week.
Okay, right now you’re probably thinking, “Oh, boy, another person urging me to make a major lifestyle change!” But as regular readers of this column are aware, adopting healthier eating habits doesn’t have to be daunting. In fact, you’ll get the best results if you keep it simple and work on just a few things at a time. Taking baby steps instead of rushing headlong into a complete dietary overhaul will more likely lead to changes that last a lifetime.
If you’re not sure how to get started, a good way to begin is simply keeping track of all the foods you eat and beverages you drink over the course of a week. But be honest with yourself! Those taste-tests while cooking and the bites you take from your kid’s plate count too!
The purpose of keeping track this way is not to shame you for overindulging. Rather it’s to give you some insight into where you may need to make some changes. Having a week’s worth of intake in front of you will allow you to reflect on what is working and what is not. For example, the list might reveal that you’re drinking a lot of sugary beverages such as pop or Kool-Aid, or perhaps that you’re making too many trips through the fast-food drive-through on your lunch break or on your way home from work.
Now that you’ve compiled your list, pick one thing that you think you can change for the better. If that thing is to drink more water instead of sugary beverages, get yourself a water bottle and plan to fill it up and drink it enough times throughout the day to equal 64 ounces of water. For example, I have a 32-ounce bottle that I fill with water at 8:00 a.m. and drink throughout the morning. Then I fill it again at noon and drink another 32 ounces by 4:00 p.m. That’s how I get my 64 ounces of water for the day. I try to avoid drinking much later than 4:00 p.m. to prevent repeated trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
If the thing you’d like to change is stopping for fast food several times per week (which, let’s face it, is easy to do if you have kids in sports or you have to travel for work), here’s a smart tip: Always carry fruit, a bag of veggies, or a sack lunch with you. If you do have to stop for fast food, try to make healthier choices, such as grilled chicken breast and salad instead of French fries. Whenever possible, try to eat at home. Keep it quick and easy with soup and a sandwich or plan for a slow-cooker meal.
One of the many advantages of preparing foods at home is that you get to control the amount of fat and sodium added and well as the flavor and nutrition of your food. Try taking a few minutes each week to plan meals and shop for them—and, of course, when shopping, resist the temptation to fill your cart with high-fat, high-salt, and calorie-dense prepared foods. Instead, load it with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, beans, and whole grains.
Need healthy recipe ideas? Look online. The American Heart Association’s website (www.heart.org) is a good source and has many tasty recipes. Also, if you’d like more information, check out the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website, www.Eatright.org.
So remember, the best way to “Eat Right, Bite by Bite” is to make slow, gradual, simple changes. Drastic changes are not only unnecessary, but often unsuccessful long term. Your goal should be to enjoy each healthy bite to achieve or maintain good health.
Enjoy National Nutrition Month!
Laurie Syring, RD/LD, is Clinical Nutrition Manager at ProMedica Flower Hospital. ❦