By: Liz Boone, RD, LD, MBA
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has declared March as National Nutrition Month ® to bring attention to how to make better food choices, eat better and increase activity to improve your health. Eating healthier doesn’t mean changing your entire eating pattern overnight. Small changes, made over time, can add up. For National Nutrition Month ® 2017, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics urges everyone to start small – one forkful at a time, and “Put Your Best Fork Forward.”
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest starting with small changes in order to make healthier lasting changes you can enjoy. The theme for National Nutrition Month ® inspires us to start with small changes in our eating habits. 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.
Reaching and maintaining a healthier weight contributes to your overall health and well-being. Losing even a few pounds, or preventing further weight gain, has health benefits. Making healthy shifts in food choices within all food groups helps reduce the risk of preventable, lifestyle-related chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Histories of poor eating and physical activity patterns have a cumulative effect and have contributed to significant nutrition and physical activity-related health challenges that now face the U.S. population. About half of all American adults – 117 million individuals – have one or more preventable chronic diseases, include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and poor bone health, many of which are related to poor eating patterns and physical inactivity. About two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, that equates to roughly 155 million individuals, and nearly one-third of children and youth are overweight or obese.
Reaching and maintaining a healthier weight contributes to your overall health and well-being. Losing even a few pounds, or preventing further weight gain, has health benefits.
Are you ready to make changes in your lifestyle and move toward a healthier weight? Here are some tips to get you started.
- Start with a plan for lifelong health – focus on the big picture not just the short-term weight loss. Think of this as training for a marathon not a sprint.
- Set healthy, realistic goals – start with one or two specific, small changes at a time, such eating a healthy breakfast daily.
- Plan – Eat at least 3 meals and plan your meals ahead of time. Check out this online tool from the USDA
“What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl” to help with healthy meal planning, cooking and grocery shopping This site features a searchable database of thousands of healthy recipes, options to build a cookbook, and print recipe cards.
- Vary your fruit and vegetables – Get the nutrients your body needs by eating a variety of colors, in various ways. Try blue, red, or black berries; red and yellow peppers; and dark greens like spinach and kale. Choose fresh, frozen, low sodium canned, dried, or 100 percent juice options.
- Energize with grains – Your body’s quickest energy source comes from foods such as bread, pasta, oatmeal, cereals, and tortillas. Be sure to make at least half of your grain food choices whole-grain like whole-wheat bread or pasta and brown rice.
- Watch portion sizes – The key to an effective weight management plan is to make sure your portion sizes are “just right”. Click here to view The Dairy Council of California printable serving-size chart.
- Drink Water – Stay hydrated by drinking water instead of sugary drinks. Keep a reusable water bottle with you to always have water on hand.
- Expand with plant protein – Variety is great! Choose beans and peas (kidney, pinto, black or white beans, split peas, chickpeas, hummus), soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers), and unsalted nuts/seeds.
- Don’t forget about dairy – Foods like fat-free and low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, and fortified soy beverages (soymilk) help to build and maintain strong bones needed for everyday activities.
A positive sense of well-being is a key part of a healthy, productive workplace. Supporting employee health and wellness through worksite wellness programs may lower healthcare costs, increase productivity, improve recruitment and retention efforts, reduce absenteeism, and improve job satisfaction. A great time to do this in your workplace is during National Nutrition Month ®. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed this free, online, simple SuperTracker Worksite Wellness Toolkit.
The Worksite Wellness Toolkit has developed an 8-week promotion plan to encourage employees to take charge of their health using SuperTracker. Each week includes a motivational quote, a suggested activity along with questions for self-reflection, and tips of the week. This toolkit provides information on how SuperTracker can be used by worksite wellness coordinators to help employees:
- Choose a lifestyle that supports healthy eating and physical activity.
- Reduces risk of chronic diseases.
- Manages weight.
Eating right doesn’t have to be complicated, simply begin to shift to healthier food and beverage choices. These recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans can help get you started. The theme for National Nutrition Month ® inspires us to start with small changes in our eating habits – one forkful at a time. So whether you are planning meals to prepare at home or making selections when eating out, remember that each bite counts: make small changes to a healthier you!
About the Author: Liz Boone is a Field Project Manager with Corporate Dining, Inc. The former executive Director of Nutrition Services at Aultman Hospital, an inner city acute care 804-bed hospital, Liz joined Corporate Dining as Project Manger in 2015. Liz was an Adjunct Professor at Aultman College of Nursing & Health Sciences and a participating member of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and Ohio Board of Dietetics. She has a BS in Dietetics & Nutrition from Ohio University and MBA in Healthcare administration from Regis University. Liz is responsible for the Association of Healthcare Foodservices (AHF), FoodMark® program and has performed work at Intuit, USAA and the PASSHE Universities. Liz Boone can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.