There is no one-size-fits-all approach to health and nutrition.
A person’s food choices are unique depending on taste preferences, background, and health goals. March is National Nutrition Month. This year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to Personalize Your Plate. This recognizes that healthy eating looks different for everyone based on cultures, food traditions, family ancestry, health, and nutritional needs.
Personalize Your Plate also reminds us to celebrate the various cultures that are present in the community. When shopping, make a point of selecting a food that is new to you. Explore new foods and flavors by creating or trying a new recipe using unique cultural food, ingredient, or seasoning. Other ways to celebrate include starting a nutrition challenge game at home, such as planning meals for the week, eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day for a week using leftovers so no food goes to waste, and learning how to read nutrition facts panel.
Meal preparation can help an individual eat right, spend less money on foods, save time, and add variety into the diet. Meal preparation simply means making food ahead of time three to four days in advance in the appropriate portion sizes.
Find a couple hours during the week to set aside for meal preparation. Start by choosing recipes based on ingredients that you already have at home. This way, it is easier to save money and reduce food waste. If an individual is unsure how much of what food group to eat, they can visit www.myplate.gov for guidance based on age, gender, and activity level.
Next is picking out the main ingredients. For example, choose a protein such as eggs, beans or lean meat. Include a whole grain such as brown rice, quinoa, or whole-wheat pasta. Clean, chop, and prepare a variety of produce to add into your recipe.
For example, broccoli, cauliflower, and squash keep in the fridge, are versatile, and have different colors and flavors. The goal is to make half the plate fruit and vegetables as they are high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, water, and fiber, and can help protect against chronic diseases.
After preparing a meal, portion out the meal into containers to eat throughout the week or store them in your freezer for a later date. Learning the skills to cook and prepare can help create meals that are healthy and enjoyable.
Learning the label lingo
Learning to read a food label is key for locating and evaluating the nutritional content of a product. Food labels provide nutrition information about most packaged or processed foods found at the grocery store. Some nutrients to keep in mind are saturated fat, trans fats, and sodium. The dietary guidelines recommend that saturated fats make up less than 10% of your daily intake of calories due to their association with chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke.
Trans fats are fats that can lower “good” cholesterol and increase “bad” cholesterol aiding in chronic diseases. It is recommended that zero grams of trans fats are consumed per day. The average American consumes 3,400 mg of sodium per day, but the recommendation is 2,300 mg or one teaspoon per day. Consuming more than the recommended amount of sodium can aid in high blood pressure.
According to the American Heart Association, more than 70% of sodium comes from packaged food, not the saltshaker! This means that it is important to look at the food labels to be aware of the amount of sodium being consumed. The nutrient reference values, expressed as Percent Daily Values, help see how a specific food fits into an overall daily diet along with standardized serving sizes that make nutritional comparisons of similar products easier. On new labels, this information is also being printed in a larger or bold font to make it easier to find.
In conclusion, National Nutrition Month celebrates Personalize Your Plate. This means that healthy eating looks different based on background, taste preferences, and family traditions. Some ways to Personalize Your Plate include picking a new food or spice at the grocery store, or trying a new recipe. There are many ways to celebrate throughout the month of March such as learning how much of each food group to eat each day, eating the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables each day, preparing meals for the week, reducing food waste, and learning about food labels. National Nutrition Month is a perfect opportunity to improve nutrition and health.
To aid in the celebration, the Crow Wing County WIC services and Crow Wing Energized are celebrating nutrition all month long. To learn more about what we are doing or to find out if you qualify for WIC services, call 218-824-1098 or visit our website at www.crowwing.us/200/WIC-Nutrition.