National Nutrition Month
March is National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme is “Go Further with Food.” The focus of the campaign, led by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is to encourage healthy eating habits and to reduce food waste. For this reason, this is a great time to evaluate whether or not you are meeting your nutritional needs.
Is it enough?
According to the CDC, most Americans are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Fewer than 1 in 10 children and adults eat the recommended daily amount of vegetables. Only 4 in 10 children and fewer than 1 in 7 adults eat enough fruit.
Lack of intake is only part of the problem. Most Americans also exceed the recommended intake levels of fats, added sugars, refined grains and sodium. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, about 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet. On average, U.S. adults consume 3,440 mg of sodium per day. If each person were to reduce the amount of sodium consumed by 1,200 mg per day, it could save up to $20 billion a year in medical costs. Diet and physical activity are the best preventative strategies to reduce the prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension.
ChooseMyPlate, is a great resource to ensure we are meeting the daily recommended amounts of key food groups. The amount of each group depends on a persons’ age, sex and level of physical activity. ChooseMyPlate can be used as visual aid to better understand proper portions and compositions for each meal. When preparing meals, it is important to choose foods and beverages with less saturated fats, sodium and added sugar.
Fruits & Vegetables
Fruits provide nutrients such as potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C and folate. Avoid fruit juices and focus instead on whole, canned and frozen fruit. Keeping fruit in a visible area can serve as a visual reminder to eat your daily recommended amount of fruit. Try to incorporate a variety of fruit such as dried, frozen and canned into your diet.
Vegetables are beneficial for your health because they contain vitamins and minerals and are usually low in calories. A great way to incorporate vegetables into your diet is by preparing pre-packaged snacks ahead of time. Although fresh vegetables are ideal, frozen and canned vegetables can be just as nutritious.
Grains & Protein
Whole grains serve as a great source of zinc, magnesium, B vitamins and fiber. Be sure to look for the word “whole” at the beginning of the ingredient list to ensure the grain is in fact a whole grain.
Protein sources include both animal and plant-based foods. Good animal sources for protein include poultry, meat, seafood and eggs. Protein from plant sources include beans, peas, soy products and seeds. It is important to select lean meats and poultry, as well as to eat plant protein foods more often.
Dairy foods including milk, yogurt, cheese and fortified soy milk provide the necessary levels of calcium, vitamin D, potassium and protein needed for good health. It is important to select foods that are low-fat or fat-free. Be sure to also limit added sugars in flavored products such as milks and yogurts.