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Putting Your Best Fork Foward

National Nutrition Month 2017

By Carol Witte, RDN, Director of Nutrition  Services and Senior Centers

National Nutrition Month has been celebrated every March since 1980 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This year’s theme is “Put your Best Fork Forward” with the goal of making each fork of food count by ensuring it is a healthy choice. Making small changes during March and throughout the year will help improve your health now and in the future. Food is something that nourishes our bodies, but when we share it with others, it also helps to nourish our soul! Below are some general guidelines.

Eat Plenty of Fruits & Vegetables, Including Beans
Fill half your plate each meal with a variety of naturally nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. This is the top item on my list because fruits and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, fiber and micronutrients as well as adding color to your plate. Try to include four to five cups of fruits and vegetables in your diet daily. Fresh, frozen and canned items are nutritious. Remember to read the labels to avoid those with added sodium, fat and sugar. Keep it simple with plain vegetables and fruits and add your own herbs and spices that do not contain salt. Fruits also make a wonderful dessert! Even vegetables like carrots and spinach can be pureed and added to muffins or pancakes to make them more nutritious. Look for new ways to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Choose Healthy Fats
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasize the use of good oils and fats which include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. It also recommends limiting saturated fats and avoiding trans fats.

When choosing a protein source, choose fish that contains omega three fatty acids such as salmon, trout, albacore tuna or mackerel. Choose lean cuts of meat including beef and pork like the “loin” or “round” and slow roast so they don’t get dry. Cut off visible fat and skin from meat. Take the time to drain the fat of cooked ground meat and poultry. You can also decrease your meat portion and include dried beans or peas with the meat sources to meet your protein needs and increase nutrients and fiber.

Choose low fat or fat free dairy products like reduced fat cheese and fat free yogurt and use evaporated fat free milk instead of whole milk or cream in recipes. Include healthy vegetable oils like canola, flaxseed and olive oil while limiting the use of coconut oil, butter and other saturated fats. Don’t forget nuts and seeds, which are also healthy fats and are packed with nutrients like potassium, zinc, iron, folate and vitamin E. All fats are high in calories so watch portion sizes!

Limit Simple Sugars
According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, we should limit our total daily consumption of added sugars to less than 10% of calories per day. Added sugars can be found in foods such as sugar-sweetened beverages and refined grain snacks and desserts. Naturally occurring sugars in foods such as fruit and milk are not added sugars. Save desserts for special occasions and remember that sugar in recipes can be decreased by 25% without sacrificing taste or quality. Limit the use of honey, agave nectar and syrups.

Limit Salt
Use as little salt in cooking as possible and avoid adding salt at the table. You can cut at least half the salt from most recipes. When shopping, read the labels and select reduced sodium broth and soup. Season your food with herbs, spices, garlic, onions and peppers instead of using seasoning mixtures which can be high in sodium.

Watch Your Calories When Eating at a Restaurant
Plan ahead if you are going to have a meal at a restaurant. Make sure meals close to this time are lower in calories, sodium or fat. Choose wisely and watch your portion sizes. More restaurants are offering additional vegetable and salad choices but limit the added fat and salt from salad dressing. Try new foods and expand your range of food choices. It is easy to drink more water when eating out because they keep refilling your glass. Get in the habit of quenching your thirst with water, and then you can enjoy other beverages slowly to enjoy the flavor.

Try a New Recipe
Try a new, healthy breakfast recipe. There are many that you can prepare the day before like refrigerator oatmeal and fruit or egg muffins with colorful vegetables that can be reheated on your way out the door. If you have a computer, try EatRight.org/HowDoI. This shows ways to dice an onion or cook dried beans. There are so many recipes and cook books out there—just look for healthy food items in the recipes or convert foods to a healthier option.

Plan Healthy Snacks
Choose healthy snacks like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy or nuts. Cut up vegetables ahead of time. Control portions of whole grain items, cheese or meats by placing them in smaller snack size portions when you come from the store.

We welcome you to come to one of our Activity & Dining Centers to enjoy a healthy meal and “put your best fork forward!”