By Sylvia Blyth, RD, LD, CLC Nutrition Education Coordinator Division of WIC Services
March is National Nutrition Month, a time to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.
Choose the right foods
“Go Further with Food” is the theme for 2018, and its importance is timely for many reasons. Whether it’s starting the day off right with a healthy breakfast or fueling up before an athletic event, the foods you choose can make a real difference. Preparing your foods to go further, by planning meals and snacks in advance, can also help to reduce food loss and waste.
This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month encourages us to achieve the numerous benefits healthy eating habits offer, but it also urges us to find ways to cut back on food waste. Learning how to manage food resources at home will help you “Go Further with Food,” while saving both nutrients and money.
What Can You Do?
Include a variety of healthful foods from all of the food groups on a regular basis.
Consider the foods you have on hand before buying more at the store.
Buy only the amount that can be eaten or frozen within a few days and plan ways to use leftovers later in the week.
Be mindful of portion sizes. Eat and drink the amount that’s right for you, as MyPlate encourages us to do.
Continue to use good food safety practices.
Find activities that you enjoy and be physically active most days of the week.
Realize the benefits of healthy eating by consulting with a registered dietitian nutritionist. RDNs can provide sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences and health-related needs.
“If you want to make the move toward eating healthier, choose one or two things to change,” said Phyllis Allen, MS, RD, state director of Public Health Nutrition. “Don’t instantly try to change everything you eat. When you make too many changes it will make it harder to stick with new habits.”
With this year’s theme, “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” DHEC is continuing its efforts in our communities teaching various age groups the importance of eating a well-balanced meal and living a more active lifestyle.
Healthy eating can help you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, and reduce the risk for a number of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. DHEC is actively working to decrease the number of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease with programs like Cooking Matters. The program teaches adults how to prepare and shop for healthy meals on a limited budget. Currently, the economic cost of obesity in South Carolina is an estimated $8.5 billion per year and growing.
“Parents are important role models for their children,” Allen said. “Set a good example by eating healthy and your children will eat healthy too.”
Tips to help develop better habits
Here are some tips to help you develop sound eating and physical activity habits. Remember, making small changes in your food choices can lead to better health.
Eat breakfast: Start your morning with a healthy breakfast that includes lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Make half your plate fruits and vegetables: Fruits and veggies add color, flavor, and texture plus vitamins, minerals, and fiber to your plate. Make 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables your daily goal. Experiment with different types, including fresh, frozen and canned.
Watch portion sizes: Get out the measuring cups and see how close your portions are to the recommended serving size.
Be active: Start by doing what exercise you can for at least 10 minutes at a time. Children and teens should get 60 or more minutes of physical activity per day, and adults should get two hours and 30 minutes per week.
Fix healthy snacks: Healthy snacks can sustain your energy levels between meals, especially when they include a combination of foods.
Get to know food labels: Reading the Nutrition Facts panel can help you eat or drink smarter.
Get cooking: Preparing foods at home can be healthy, rewarding and cost-effective. Resolve to learn some cooking and kitchen basics.
Dine out without ditching your goals: Plan ahead, ask questions and choose foods carefully. Compare nutrition information, if available, and look for healthier options that are grilled, baked, broiled or steamed.
Drink more water: Quench your thirst by drinking water instead of sugary drinks.
Cut back on added sugars: Foods and drinks with added sugars equal empty calories and little or no nutrition. Reviewing ingredients on the food label helps identify sources of added sugar.