March is National Nutrition Month®. The theme for 2021 is “Personalize Your Plate.” It is important to remember we are all unique people with different bodies, experiences, preferences, and goals. This National Nutrition Month®, learn how to make the food you eat reflect you. Join us in these four challenges each week of the month.
National Nutrition Month® Challenge
Week 1: Eat a variety of nutritious foods every day.
- Include healthful foods from all food groups. Each food group (fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, proteins, and fats/oils) offers different nutrients to help you and your family stay healthy and grow properly. Check out this blog entry from March 2019 to read more about why nutritious food matters.
- Drink plenty of water. Water makes up about 60% of your body and helps make all your body systems work how they should. Women need about 11.5 cups per day, and men need about 15.5 cups of water from food and drink sources. However, the amount of water you need depends on other factors as well, like physical activity level.
- Learn how to read Nutrition Facts Panels. The Nutrition Facts label tells you nearly everything you need to know about a packaged food item. It is a tool to help you make informed decisions about the food you eat.
- Avoid distractions while eating. Try eating at a table, not in front of the TV, and limit screen time during meals. This way you can focus on your body, food, and company.
- Take time to enjoy your food. It can be difficult to carve out time in your busy schedule to eat and enjoy your food. While it might not always be possible to do so, try to set aside time so you can focus on your food and listen to your body’s hunger cues. This practice can help you eat more mindfully.
Week 2: Plan your meals each week.
- Use a grocery list to shop for healthful foods. Stick to a shopping list that you make before you head to the store. Buy only what is on your list. This process can help you resist the urge to buy food that you didn’t plan for and to stick to your budget.
- Be menu-savvy when dining out. Many restaurants post their nutrition information on the menu or have them available upon request. Foods served in restaurants often have higher levels of salt (sodium) and fats and are often served in larger portion sizes than what you might generally serve yourself at home. It’s OK to personalize your meal a bit by asking for entrees and sides that help you reach your health goals. Splitting meals with someone at your table can be good on your budget and can help you manage how much you’re eating. You can also ask for a take-out box at the beginning of your meal and pack half your meal for leftovers.
- Choose healthful recipes to make during the week. Check out our YouTube channel to find cooking demos for healthy meals on a budget. (link https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHTC6YxRC-EIkYBG_PlLUXQ) Also, you can easily search “quick and easy healthy recipes” in a search engine online to find plenty of meals that you’ll enjoy.
- Enjoy healthful eating at school and at work. Plan ahead to help you make healthful food choices. Planning helps you stick to your budget so you don’t make last-minute pricy food choices from vending machines, convenience stores, or restaurants.
- Plan healthful eating while traveling. Though you can and even should branch out and try new foods, it might be a good idea to stick to a similar food pattern that you follow at home. The stress of traveling on your body – in addition to lots of new foods – could upset your stomach.
Week 3: Learn skills to create tasty meals.
- Keep healthful ingredients on hand. Check out this blog from September 2020 to see what foods we think are the best to keep in your kitchen at home.
- Practice proper home food safety. Check out this blog from November 2020 to learn more about proper food safety practices.
- Share meals together as a family when possible. Family meals have been connected to higher intake of fruits and vegetables, healthy weight, fewer behavior problems. It also gives families an opportunity to create a positive environment around food.
- Reduce food waste. Not only is reducing your food waste good for the environment, but it’s good on your wallet, too. Wasting food is like throwing your money out the window. A good way to reduce food waste is to recreate your leftovers into a new meal. You can also try composting your food scraps to turn them into something helpful for the environment rather than going to a landfill.
- Try new flavors and foods. Experiment with different herbs, spices, and sauces to add different flavors to the foods you normally eat. Look up recipes from different cultures and try something that sounds interesting to you.
Week 4: Consult a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN).
Registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) are the nutrition experts. They go through years of schooling and keep up-to-date on the latest nutrition research to help you reach your nutrition-related goals. Ask your doctor for a referral to an RDN and receive personalized nutrition advice to meet your health goals or click here. Find an RDN who is specialized in the areas you need support with most. A RDN can help guide you through personalizing your plate!