March is National Nutrition Month, a nutrition education and information campaign created annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This year’s campaign, “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right,” focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.
Consumer research confirms that taste tops nutrition as the main reason why one food is purchased over another. While social, emotional and health factors also play a role, the foods people enjoy are likely the ones they eat most. The key for healthy eating is to combine taste and nutrition to create healthy meals that everyone can enjoy!
Here are some ways to eat healthy during the day:
• Start your morning with a healthy, balanced breakfast. Include lean protein, whole grains, low-fat dairy and fruit. For example: 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal, 1/2 banana (sliced in oatmeal), 2 small turkey sausage links and 8 ounces skim milk. Another example of a healthy breakfast may include two slices whole wheat toast with 2 Tablespoons Nutella/peanut butter, 1 cup of berries and 6 ounces low-fat yogurt.
• Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. They add color, flavor and texture plus vitamins, minerals and fiber to your plate.
• Fix healthy snacks to sustain your energy level between meals. Choose foods from MyPlate food groups. Consider 15 grapes with 1/4 cup nuts, medium apple (sliced) dipped in 2 Tablespoons peanut butter, low-fat string cheese and four to six wheat crackers, or 6 ounces low-fat yogurt with 20-22 almonds.
• Get cooking. Cooking at home can be healthy, rewarding and cost-effective. Restaurants can be expensive, and the food can be high in sodium and fat. Preparing meals at home can not only be better on your budget, but also healthier. Plan your week’s meals before you go to the store. Having ingredients on hand may keep you out of the drive-through. Stews or slow cooker meals can cook while you are at work and will also “stretch” expensive items into more portions.
• Cook smart. If you grill chicken to serve with whole grain rice and green beans, grill extra for quesadillas to eat another night. This way, you do not have to prepare meat twice. Defrost meat the night before so it’s ready to put in the oven as soon as you get home. While it cooks, prepare quick sides like stir-fry veggies in olive oil. Beans and peas are another great protein source and quick to prepare. It’s smart to prepare a large batch of your favorite recipes on your day off, then freeze extras in individual containers for quick meals later.
• Plan family meal time at least a few times each week. Family meals promote healthier eating.
Try a new recipe each week, or try a different fruit or vegetable like mangos or avocados. Flavor foods with different herbs, such as rosemary, basil, cilantro or spices like cumin, thyme or cinnamon instead of salt or high sodium products.
Food should be terrific to our taste buds. Eating right can be enjoyable while also providing the nutrients our bodies need to function. Take time this month to slow down and “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.”
Alice Anne Lee is a dietitian with North Mississippi Medical Center Wellness Centers located in Tupelo, Pontotoc and Baldwyn.