by Hannah C. Smith, RDN
There is so much information out there about fad diets, best ways to lose weight, best foods to eat to be healthier. It all seems so complicated and confusing; it is hard to know what the best food choices are to make for my family. Can you help?
Eating right doesn’t have to be complicated. You can make great strides towards good health by simply beginning the shift towards healthier food and beverage choices. March is National Nutrition Month, an annual campaign sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that focuses on helping everyone make informed food choices and develop sound eating and physical activity habits. This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month is “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” which acts as a reminder that each bite counts and making just small shifts in our food choices, can add up over time! These recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans can help get you started.
Make Your Calories Count
Think nutrient-rich rather than “good” or “bad” foods. The majority of your food choices should be packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients, and lower in calories. Making smart food choices can help you stay healthy, manage your weight and be physically active.
Focus on Variety
Eat a variety of foods from all the food groups to get the nutrients your body needs. Fruits and vegetables can be fresh, frozen or canned. Eat more dark green vegetables such as leafy greens and broccoli and orange vegetables including carrots and sweet potatoes. Vary your protein choices with more fish, beans and peas. Eat at least 3 ounces of whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice or pasta every day.
Know Your Fats
Look for foods low in saturated fats and trans fats to help reduce your risk of heart disease. Most of the fats you eat should be monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils. Check the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels for total fat and saturated fat.
Spring Into Fresh Foods!
Spring is a great time to hit the reset button and reintroduce some fresh foods into your families’ diet after a long winter. Get into the swing of spring produce and give these four seasonal favorites a try.
Spinach is called a superfood for a reason: It’s packed with vitamins A and C, which are essential for eye health, immune function and many other body processes. Vitamin K helps build strong bones. Spinach also contains folate and iron, which help prevent anemia. The magnesium and potassium are important for muscle development and growth. If your family is on-board with green stuff, serve spinach salads or add it to smoothies. Serve it sautéed with meat and fish. For veggie avoiders, the mild flavor of spinach is easily masked. Just puree and mix it into sauces, soups and meatballs.
A calcium-rich food, yogurt is important for building strong bones and teeth. At eight grams per 6 ounce container, yogurt is also a great source of protein. Greek yogurt has up to twice that much, however it provides less calcium. Yogurt is also a good source of probiotic bacteria, which can promote good digestion and immune system function.
Loaded with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, fresh strawberries are a seasonal superstar. Just one cup provides more than a day’s worth of vitamin C, plus a hearty dose of manganese, which is important for bone development. A serving of strawberries also packs three grams of fiber.
Asparagus is an excellent source of bone-building vitamin K as well as folate. It also provides vitamin A and iron. Available in green, purple and white varieties, asparagus spears are fun to eat and go with all kinds of foods. Try rolling asparagus in egg and panko crumbs and baking on a cookie sheet as a kid-friendly prep method. You can also add Parmesan cheese to the panko crumbs for a cheesy variation.
With a little bit of planning, effort and a desire to try new things, providing healthy foods for your family can be easy. By starting simply and making informed food choices, you will help your family develop sound eating, healthy habits.
Rochester Regional Health Registered Dietitian, Hannah Smith, is the manager of inpatient, outpatient and long-term care dieticians at Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic, Clifton Springs Nursing Home, Newark-Wayne Community Hospital and DeMay Living Center. Smith also oversees many health and wellness community education initiatives. For more information, contact Hannah at Hannah.Smith@rochesterregional.org.