By Tracy Severson, R.D., L.D.
Some people celebrate the holidays in December, but dietitians tend to get excited about March—it’s National Nutrition Month!
This year’s theme is “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day,” which, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website, “encourages personalized healthy eating styles and recognizes that food preferences, lifestyle, cultural and ethnic traditions and health concerns all impact individual food choices.”
So what does that mean for you? To me it means that every day, we should think about what we’re putting in our bodies. Figure out what you like, and why you like it. Did you grow up on traditional Mexican foods, Italian pasta dishes, or, like me, Southern fried chicken? Take those foods that resonate with you and learn how to adapt them for a healthy diet. Put some thought into your meals so they nourish your body and your soul—a healthy diet should be nutritious and enjoyable, otherwise it’s unrealistic to expect to stick with it permanently.
You can use each part of the 2013 National Nutrition Month theme to help make healthy food and nutrition a part of your daily life.
Fill up half your plate with fruits and vegetables, use less salt, choose whole grains instead of refined grains, eat fish twice a week…I know you’ve heard the recommendations before; this month think about ways to incorporate healthy changes into each meal.
Develop a meal plan and grocery list filled with wholesome foods you enjoy. Look for healthy versions of your favorite recipes, or try modifying the ingredients or cooking techniques in your not-so-healthy standards. Get creative!
- Choose smaller portions of higher-fat foods.
- Experiment with herbs and spices in order to reduce the salt.
- Opt for baking or broiling instead of frying.
- Substitute whole grains whenever possible (e.g., whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta).
- Always (always!) think about ways to increase the vegetables in recipes and on your plate.
Incorporate small changes in your diet every single day to improve your overall health and well-being, and take time each day to think about the food you eat and how it impacts your life.
- Plan your meals in advance to help ensure a balanced diet.
- Cook with your kids to pass on family traditions and teach them about nutrition.
- Sit down for family dinners to catch up on everyone’s day.
- Host a potluck with friends or neighbors to share good times over healthy food.
I hope you spend National Nutrition Month enjoying nutritious meals with loved ones and thinking about how your food choices shape who you are. As for me, this month I plan on perfecting my not-so-Southern oven-“fried” chicken served on a bed of roasted vegetables. Not exactly like my grandmother would make, but still delicious, and certainly prepared my way.
Tracy Severson is an outpatient clinical dietitian at OHSU. She earned Bachelor’s degrees in Nutritional Sciences and Sociology from the University of Arizona and completed her training to become a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) at the University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona. Since becoming an R.D., she has also completed a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management.
Tracy moved to Portland from Tucson in 2010, and has worked at OHSU since 2011. She works with the OHSU Surgical Weight Reduction clinic and Cardiac Rehab program, and also provides medical nutrition therapy for General Adult Outpatient Clinics at OHSU.