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March is National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month

Simple Changes Help You “Put Your Best Fork Forward”

National Nutrition Month campaign was created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to bring attention to the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound physical activity habits. The theme for this year is “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” which acts as a reminder that each bite counts.

Small changes can make a big impact over time—especially when it comes to your diet. Adding a piece of fruit to breakfast, opting for whole grain bread instead of white bread, or drinking more water—when implemented daily—can make a huge improvement in your overall health. Drastic changes, like eliminating entire food groups or adopting a major shift in diet, are not necessary to be successful. In fact, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans actually suggest “starting with small changes to make healthier lasting changes you can enjoy.”

So whether you are planning meals to prepare at home or making selections when eating out, Put Your Best Fork Forward to help find your healthy eating style.

Easy Changes You Can Make Today

Making healthy, lifelong lifestyle changes doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process, but it is an important process. Such changes can help you prevent or beat chronic conditions such as obesity and heart disease.

Diana Le Dean, health and wellness expert, offers these simple and doable tips to make sure you are successful at becoming a healthier, happier you:

Be Clean

“Clean” food can be prepared four ways: Boiled, broiled, steamed, or grilled (and raw, if it’s sushi). That’s it. No sauces, no butter, just a small amount of raw olive oil. The same goes for side vegetables. Fruit is for dessert.

This approach may sound bland, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember that the spice cabinet is your salvation. Get to know your herbs—there’s a deep universe of flavors to be enjoyed that won’t add a single calorie to your dietary objective.

Do it Your Way

If you’re trying to keep your calories low and nutritional values high, processed cookies aren’t going to cut it (you know this, of course, even if you don’t want to admit it). But there’s no food you must eat for good nutrition. Broccoli wears the “superfood” crown these days, but if you hate it, don’t eat it! You can replace its nutritional value load with fruit, collards, tomatoes, bell peppers, and many other vegetables. Broccoli has potassium (so does asparagus) iron (spinach), vitamin A (hot chili peppers), and easy-to-absorb calcium (bok choy).

To find what you like, go to the grocery store and experiment. Roam the vegetable and fruit aisles and let your instincts weigh in.

Do it Every Day

Simple changes to your diet—made every day—shows the long-term commitment you have to eating well. “Every day” is the right mindset for staying healthy and lean, but it shouldn’t mean monotony. While you should have a daily plan, you should also mix things up a bit.

One indulgence every seven days won’t ruin your good work. Rather, it can satisfy cravings for those “gotta have it” foods and can keep you from being the boring person who never turns up for a pizza night with friends. And it’s easier to keep your indulgences modest when you plan them in advance.

If you’re setting weight loss goals, it’s critical you come up with clear intentions and schemes for getting through the difficult moments. Every day, you should be thinking about where you’ll be, what events you’ll attend, and if you’ll be mingling with diet saboteurs. Avoid improvisation by laying out your eating plan the day before. No, a single misstep will not ruin weeks of good work, but you want to minimize unforced errors.

The Best Advice from the Experts

To celebrate National Nutrition Month, author and registered dietitian Manuel Villacorta recently interviewed 10 dietitians across the country to discover the advice they give their clients (and also practice in their own lives). Below, he shares those recommendations:

Eat more whole plants. Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), says, “No matter what your eating style, you can gain more health benefits by filling up your plate with at least three-fourths plant foods, such as beans, lentils, whole grains, like quinoa, brown rice, and farro; vegetables, and fruits. Plus this eating pattern is better for the planet, too.”

Combine your food. “Combining foods is so important for increasing your metabolism and controlling hunger,” says Sarah Koszyk, RDN, sports dietitian, and weight management specialist. “When you combine foods such as a carbohydrate and protein, you will feel more full and satisfied than if you just ate one of the foods by itself. For example, have you ever eaten a fruit and still felt hungry? Add some peanut butter, almond butter, nuts, cheese, or yogurt to the fruit and you are a happy camper. When it comes to food combinations, an easy rule of thumb is to remember to eat at least two food groups for a hearty, satisfying snack.”

Make time to eat with those you love. Toby Amidor, MS, RDN, values family meal times with her loved ones. “As I have school-aged children and their weeknight schedules are hectic, I make a point to eat breakfast each morning together with my kids. I am able to ask them what is in store for the day and make sure they leave my house with their bellies filled with a nutritious breakfast and a smile on their face.”

Have a plan of action. Michelle Dudash, RDN, recommends you look at your kitchen, see what you have on hand, and plan what you need to get. “It’s all about being armed with streamlined recipes, planning for the week, and having a calculated grocery list to stock your pantry strategically. A well-stocked pantry also helps with last-minute meals at a moment’s notice. You don’t need to keep a lot of food on hand, just the right food on hand to produce balanced meals—proteins, vegetables, and whole grains. Broth, dried herbs and spices, a couple oils, and a few vinegars also boost flavor.”

Plan, prepare, and store healthy meals for the week. Heather Mangieri, RDN, acknowledges the fact that “we are all busy. Work, school, extracurricular activities, and house work are realities for many families, but they should never be at the expense of your health.” She suggests to “take three to four hours on a day you have extra time to cook four to five healthy meals for the week. Store those meals in the refrigerator so you and your family can just reheat, eat, and go. Preparing meals in advance takes the stress away from healthy eating, even when practice runs late or the unexpected happens.”

Get real with your food. “Cook as much as you can,” says Robyn Webb, MS. She recommends getting intimate with your kitchen and to “learn knife skills and grow some of your own food if you can. Good nutrition will sort itself out if you learn all about your food. Don’t diet, don’t cleanse, and don’t hop on any bandwagon of the moment. Just get real with your food and find your way into the kitchen and garden.”

Get to know your body. “Meal plans and calorie trackers are great learning tools, but a healthy relationship with food is the best tool in your tool box,” says Jim White, RDN and certified exercise physiologist. “You can start by using your body’s physiological responses to learn what is helping or hurting you (hunger, stress level, energy levels, digestion, etc.) Assess your sleep, daily routines, and environment to see how it affects your eating. Stop and ask yourself, ‘Why am I eating this?’”

One meal won’t “make” or “break” your health. Christy Wilson, RD and Health and Wellness coach at the University of Arizona, advises looking at your overall eating pattern: “Every meal is an opportunity to get your health on-track. One meal won’t ‘make’ or ‘break’ your health, but the trends in your diet will. What you eat on a regular basis will help keep you healthy or will gradually contribute to illness. Choose to fill half your plate with plant-based fresh foods and less of the plate with meat. Choose whole grains, beans, and fish over highly processed foods. Also, move more and sit less!”

Punch up your fiber. Shelly Marie Redmond, MS, RDN, LDN, says, “When any client walks through [our] doors, we focus on punching up fiber. Fiber has a ton of health benefits, but for weight loss, it keeps us full! Instead of a ‘ho-hum’ granola bar, boring cereal flakes, or random whole grains, look for items that pack the punch of fiber: Those with five or more grams of fiber per serving.”

Choose quality over quantity. Marjorie Nolan Cohn, MS, RDN, CSSD, simply recommends, “Don’t worry about calories or fat. Focus on eating whole foods that are prepared simply.”

Simply put, a diet for life is built step by step. Those who change their eating habits for good break down their challenges into manageable units that build confidence and keep momentum measurable. Once your new habits are ingrained through repetition, you won’t need to give March a “special” name. Your nutritional awareness will be as natural as breathing.

If you have questions about any healthcare issue, contact the primary care providers at Coastal Carolina Health Care by calling (252) 633-4111 or visiting

(Sources: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; University of Washington; 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans; The Huffington Post; and Food & Nutrition Magazine.)