March is National Nutrition Month: Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle

By Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

March is National Nutrition Month, a yearly nutrition education campaign put out by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The goal of National Nutrition Month is to bring attention to the significance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle through smart food choices and regular physical activity. This year’s theme, “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle”, brings emphasis to focusing on an overall healthy, day-to-day routine rather than fixating on one specific nutrient, food, beverage, or type of exercise. While many people want a quick fix to lose weight or get healthy, it is important to remember that this is a futile effort and concentrating on establishing habits that can be sustained over a lifetime will yield true results.

This “back to basics” approach is what the National Nutrition Month’s theme centers on. To help you achieve overall health, it is important to find ways to establish a life-long commitment to sustainable behaviors that still allow you to enjoy life. Here are some basic tips to help you bite into a healthy lifestyle:

Start Small
Stay away from the “all or nothing” approach, which usually ends up backfiring because it is hard to maintain and it causes people to revert back to old habits. Begin by picking two high-calorie items you can cut back on, and set a specific goal for how you will limit those foods or beverages. Every two weeks, set a new goal, making small changes each time.

Use MyPlate as Your Guide
MyPlate, a visual representation of a healthy plate, can help guide your food choices. When in doubt, follow MyPlate and fill half of your plate with colorful vegetables and fruits, a quarter with a lean protein, and a quarter with a whole grain. A side of low-fat or fat-free dairy completes your meal.

Get Physical Activity Every Day
Aim for at least 30-60 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. Find a physical activity that you truly enjoy and can see yourself doing long-term.

Cut Back on Away-From-Home Foods
It is much more difficult to find and actually order healthy foods when dining out. Restaurant and fast-food meals are notoriously high in fat, salt and sugar, and portion sizes served are gigantic. Cooking meals at home helps you make smart choices because you can choose what ingredients go into your dishes and how much you eat.

Follow the Stoplight Rule
A healthy diet allows room for you to enjoy all foods, some more often than others. Just like a traffic stoplight, foods fall into green, yellow, and red categories. Green light foods are foods that can be enjoyed daily – colorful fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, low-fat and fat-free dairy, and lean proteins prepared in a small amount of healthy fat. Yellow light foods are foods that can be enjoyed several times a week – refined grains, full-fat dairy, and higher-fat meats and snacks. Red light foods are “special occasion” foods – foods that can be enjoyed every once in a while but are not a regular part of your eating pattern. These might include fried foods, desserts, sweets, sugary beverages, and high-fat meals or snack foods.

Join Operation Food Search for the Grand Opening Celebration of Zydeco Blues! On Thursday, March 26 from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m., Zydeco Blues at 1090 Old Des Peres Road will donate a percentage of its proceeds to benefit Operation Food Search. Enjoy delicious Cajun, Creole and Southern Louisiana classics, live music and good times to help nourish our neighbors in need! For more information call or visit (314) 726-5355 / www.OperationFoodSearch.org or (314) 858-1188 / www.ZydecoBluesSTL.com.