March is National Nutrition Month. It’s a time to re-assess our eating habits and re-focus our attention on nutrition. Are you living a healthy, energetic and fulfilling lifestyle? Spring forward and start today!
This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month is “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle.” Here are some bite-size changes to get you started towards a healthier you.
Make Water Your Drink of Choice
What you drink is as important as what you eat. Many drinks have added sugars and little to no nutrients. Your body needs pure water to hydrate cells, so you feel healthy and energetic. Your brain alone uses two cups of water a day! Try aiming for 32 ounces of water daily, plus an additional 32 oz of water or other beverages. If you drink sugary juices or soda each day, start by replacing one of these with a glass of water and try this for a few weeks. Once you’ve made this switch, try swopping out another serving, replacing it with water. Add a slice of lemon, lime or orange to make it more flavorful. You’ll find kicking this habit is easier than you think.
Try New Foods
It’s an exciting time to explore healthy and delicious foods you might not already know. The Internet and social media have made so many great recipes available at our fingertips. Vow to try a new fruit, vegetable or whole grain each week. Pick out a different variety of apple, a different kind of leafy green, a new color of bell pepper and a new “ancient grain” (popular are amaranth, kamut and millet). And in the kitchen, you can even refresh your go-to dishes by using new cooking techniques. Try grilling instead of baking or sautéing instead of frying. Bring new life into mildly flavored foods with a pinch of different herbs and spices or the new “smoked” seasonings like smoked paprika and smoked pepper.
Go Low on Sugar
The U.S. Nutrition Advisory Panel’s recently released recommendations for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines made one thing loud and clear – Americans need to reduce sugar intake. And that’s not just the extra spoonful of sugar you put in your coffee or cereal. It’s important to be aware of the amounts of “hidden” sugar you eat each day that are added to foods and drinks by manufacturers. The FDA and American Heart Association recommend cutting down sugar intake to less than 10 percent of your daily calories, meaning 150-200 sugar calories a day. A 12-oz soda has 150 calories of sugar alone. By limiting added sugars in drinks and sweets, avoiding excessive snacking of processed foods (typically high in added sugar) and reading food labels carefully, you can make better and more informed choices on your sugar consumption.1
Eat More Fiber
Research has found eating a fiber-rich diet can lead to reducing your risk of chronic health diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer. Studies have also shown that consuming fiber-rich foods can boost weight loss by helping you feel fuller after you eat. The reality is most Americans aren’t consuming nearly enough fiber. In fact, nutrition guidelines recommend 25 to 38 grams per day, but the average American only consumes only about 10-14 grams. Simple ways to boost your fiber intake? Try eating more fruits and vegetables (including their fiber-rich skins and peels) and add more beans, peas and lentils to your diet. Get creative and add beans to salads, soups, rice, chili, tacos, side dishes, and snacks (think edamame pods and hummus). Be sure to compare nutrition labels to discover more fiber-rich food choices to up your fiber intake.2
Connect with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)
Registered dietitian nutritionists are experts in developing a personalized nutrition plan for you. RDNs help you translate nutritional science into ideas and tips you can use to keep you on track to a healthier life. By consulting with an RDN you can learn to “eat healthy”, dispel food and diet myths, achieve and maintain a healthy weight, feel better and reduce your lifetime risk of chronic disease that impacts your heart, cancer, muscle and bones. To find an RDN near year, go to www.scandpg.org or www.eatright.org , click on “find a dietitian”, and insert your zip code. Remember, all RDN’s are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are RDN’s. RDN’s have met all the national educational, traineeship, and continuing education requirements by the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to safely practice nutritional guidance with expert advice you can trust.
1 Source: Health.gov, 2 Source: Annals.org
For more ideas on heart-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/GeorgiaKostasNutrition 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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