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It’s National Nutrition Month and March 9 is National Dietitians’ Day!
This year’s theme from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is simple: ‘Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.’ In order words, each time you eat, truly focus on enjoying each bite. Appreciate the flavors, colors, aromas, textures and social experiences associated with eating your favorite foods. Too often we eat rushed, while doing tasks, and miss out on the enjoyment that food is meant to have. This can lead to over-eating. Sit down. Slow down. Enjoy. You will eat better and enjoy it more.
This month, create healthful meals with your favorite foods, to achieve your health and wellness goals. Inspired by the latest changes to the federal Dietary Guidelines released a month ago, here are some steps to take:
Cut added sugar
If you are like most people, you are probably eating and drinking more sugar than you are aware of. Added sugar is found in surprising places like salad dressings and sauces. Your goal? No more than 150 calories for women and 200 calories for men of added sugars. Read food labels and know what you are eating. “Added sugars” are listed in grams. For women, aim for 35 grams of sugar at most daily. Men, aim for no more than 50 grams of sugar.
- What you can do: Reach for protein-rich nuts or seeds, fresh fruit or veggies, like baby carrots, cucumber or red bell peppers with hummus, or edamames. Try fresh sliced fruit served with Greek yogurt or Siggi’s thick Icelandic yogurt (both have less or no sugar). Make your own trail mix with wholegrain cereals, raisins and nuts. Enjoy crunchy whole wheat crackers with a soft cheese slice and zippy tomato juice.
Limit saturated fats
Eating too much saturated fat can increase risk of chronic illness such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Did you know the majority of saturated fat we eat is NOT in red meat and cheese, but rather in commercially prepared snack foods with “partially hydrogenated oils” such as in biscuits, cinnamon rolls, cookies, popcorn, cupcakes, cakes, frosting, French fries and many commercial snacks?
- What you can do: Make any of the above foods at home with healthy oils and ingredients. Or choose fruit, beans, veggies, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, homemade snacks to avoid hydrogenated (factory-made) oils. Choose low-fat or non-fat dairy foods, lean beef trimmed of fat, skinned poultry and seafood that is not fried. Avoid frying anything. Keep meat to 5-6 oz daily. Use oil in cooking rather than butter. And check food labels. You want no more than 13-16 grams of saturated fat a day.
The new federal dietary guidelines call for cutting back sodium to 2,300 milligrams or less each day for those ages 14-50 and 1,500 milligrams daily for those older than 50 or African-American. Begin by cutting 1000 mg sodium daily….substitute ingredients and put the salt shaker away.
- What you can do: It’s more than just stopping table salt or cooking salt. The bigger culprit is sodium packed in processed foods, such as condiments, pizza, sauces, soups, packaged snack foods, cold cuts, sausage, hot dogs and meals out. Read nutrition labels! Look for no more than 800 mg sodium in a frozen dinner, soup meal or entire dinner. Buy lower-sodium canned beans, soups and tomato or spaghetti sauces. Go fresh as often as possible. Nature does not put salt in fruit, fresh vegetables, potatoes, corn, dried beans and peas, etc. Be aware of the sodium in your bread. Often, a slice of bread contains 150-200 mg sodium, which is almost 10 percent of your day’s total.
Slow down and enjoy
Take time to enjoy mealtime. Food is more than nourishment and fuel for your body. Meals nourish our entire being, providing pleasure, relaxation and socialization. Sit down for meals. Be mindful of what you are eating. Stop. Take time between bites. Take smaller bites. Put away that cell phone. Don’t multitask while eating. Take a break from what you are doing to savor everything about the meal – the place, people, type food, time of day, etc. Savor each bite. Starting today, make the most out of every eating experience, and Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.
For more ideas on healthy eating and successful solutions, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips and eating plans makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia KostasNutrition and visit: http://www.georgiakostas.com.
This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.
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