Written by: Giesla Potter, RDN, IU Health Morgan Nutrition Services
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) has designated March as National Nutrition Month. During this time, AND encourages consumers to reflect on their nutrition and lifestyle habits and set goals to promote health and wellbeing. The theme of National Nutrition Month this March is Eat Right, Bite by Bite. Eating a healthful diet should not be overwhelming, intimidating, or restrictive. We all have the right to nutritious food and to feel well. Making incremental adjustments to our nutrition and lifestyle can enhance our health.
You may wonder why nutrition is touted as such an important piece of human health. Consider this: every bite or sip of food is information for the human body. When we eat and drink, the body breaks down that food via digestion. These molecular nutrients are then absorbed by the digestive tract into your cells as information, instructing your body to function in a particular way. If we feed our body nutrient-rich foods, our body can respond positively by helping us fight against disease, illness, and inflammation. Alternatively, feeding our body foods and beverages with little to no nutritional quality repeatedly, over time our bodies will respond with a negative impact to our health.
Take a moment to reflect on your current food and beverage choices. Do you include fruit and vegetables into your meals every day? Are sugar-sweetened beverages part of your daily fluid intake? Does your plate hold a rainbow of colors at meals? Do processed foods and restaurant foods make up most of your diet? If you struggle with making healthful dietary choices and are ready to make improvements, consider adapting one or more of the following tips.
Include all five food groups into your daily diet. The USDA MyPlate includes fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, and dairy or dairy alternatives as the five components to a balanced diet. Include at least three food groups at each meal, and by the end of the day you will likely have consumed all of the food groups. Aim to get lean protein and a vegetable and/or fruit at each meal.
Enjoy more fruits and vegetables! These foods provide the body with essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a bounty of disease fighting natural phytochemicals. The goal is five or more servings a day, but if that seems like a stretch, start small. Include a fruit and/or a vegetable at each meal. Have fruit as a healthy afternoon snack or for a naturally sweet dessert. Serve yourself at least a half cup serving of vegetables at lunch and dinner.
Hydrate the healthy way by drinking mostly water and avoiding or limiting sweetened beverages. If water is not your favorite, add fresh fruit, mint, or cucumber to add flavor and appeal. Sip on refreshing seltzer water or add a splash of 100% juice to your water. Other healthy beverages include low-fat milk, organic soymilk, unsweetened plant-based milk, and small amounts of 100% juice.
Eat mindfully. We live in a fast-paced world and may not always take time to sit and enjoy our meals and snacks. Rather we eat in our cars, pick up a quick meal at fast food restaurants, or eat while staring at electronic devices. Practice focusing on your plate at mealtime, admiring the colors, textures, and flavors of food. Mindful eating practices allow individuals to tune into their hunger and fullness cues, eat more appropriate portions, and enjoy their meals more.
Make a grocery list of healthy food and beverages choices and stick to your list when shopping. Eating well starts at the grocery store and having a plan to purchase nutritious foods ensures these foods will make it into your home. Include fresh and frozen produce of all colors, lean meat and fish, eggs, plant proteins like beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and seeds, and whole grains. Having nutritious foods on hand leaves less room for junk food.
Eating right bite by bite can help create new habits and ultimately lead to a healthier version of you!
CFMC is partnering with IU Health Morgan to provide nutrition assistance at Bulldog Blessings Food pantry in Monrovia. This grant of $3000 allows Giesla and her team the unique opportunity to work with participants in the program who will now receive nutrition education, food demonstrations, grocery shopping ideas, and kitchen utensils to aid in preparing meals, as well as a supply of healthy food choices.
CFMC realizes that access to rural preventative care and nutrition advice is a real problem in Morgan County. Thanks to the generosity of our donors 100% of every dollar we raise goes back out into the community in our IMPACT grants providing real solutions just like this example. Please be intentional about your giving and give local. You can help us make a tremendous change in our community and improve the quality of life for all residents of our county.