March is National Nutrition Month. This year is more special because it is the 40th anniversary of the yearly nutrition and education campaign. Since I have worked as a Registered Dietitian for 21 years, I just realized that I have been involved in the campaign for just over half of those 40 years.
This year’s theme is: “Eat Right, Your way, Every Day”. This theme encourages personalized healthy eating styles. It recognizes that food preferences, lifestyle, cultural and ethnic traditions, and health concerns impact individual food choices. With this theme in mind, I have a few tips:
- Choose healthy foods that you enjoy. Fresh foods are nutrient rich.
- Choose foods for your lifestyle. Are you an athlete, vegetarian, person with heart disease? Select foods that promote your health.
- For variety and also for a variety of nutrients, choose different foods from each food group. Make My Plate your plate.
Last week, all the talk from the news media concerned the Mediterranean Diet. The traditional diets of the Mediterranean region are mainly based on the foods from a rich variety of plant sources and include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. Food from plants is at the center of the Mediterranean Diet.
- Whole grain bread is a staple, but is served without butter or margarine.
- Red meat is less than 16 ounces per month. Use lean meats such as sirloin, tenderloin, round steak.
- Fish or chicken varied between 10-15 ounces per week. Minimum of 8 – 12 ounces of fish per week. Fish is broiled, grilled, baked, or poached.
- Legumes (kidney beans, chickpeas, pinto beans etc.), nuts (including peanut butter), and seeds provide additional protein.
- Fresh fruit is the typical daily dessert.
- Cheese and yogurt are the main dairy foods. Low fat and non-fat products are preferred.
- Olive oil, high in monounsaturated fat, is a good source of antioxidants and is the area’s prime source of fat.
- Low in saturated fat and trans fat. Emphasis is on a variety of fresh foods not processed foods. Sweets with a significant amount of saturated and/or trans fats are consumed less than a few times per month.
- Moderate wine consumption, normally with a meal. One glass (4-5 ounces) per day is the usual amount in the Mediterranean area. This is optional. Grapes or grape juice will provide antioxidants too.
- Regular physical activity at a level which promotes a healthy weight, fitness and well being.
As I read through Mediterranean plan, the visual image of the MyPlate comes to mind. Over half the plate is certainly fruit and vegetables. It includes low fat or nonfat dairy, seafood preferred along with poultry, legumes (kidney beans, garbanzo beans, black beans etc.) at least three times per week, nuts in moderation, and olive oil is the usual fat. Another visual is the Mediterranean Food Pyramid.
There is much to think about this March. Nutrition month provides an opportunity to look over your daily food choices. Are they similar to the visual MyPlate and the Mediterranean Diet? Something to think about. Spring is a good time to “spring clean your food choices”!