By Alexia Hall, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

During March, we celebrate National Nutrition Month, an annual celebration promoted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This health observance is a wonderful opportunity to encourage everyone to focus on making positive choices for healthy food and physical activity.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says it best, when conveying the importance of good nutrition:

Good nutrition doesn’t have to be restrictive or overwhelming. Small goals and changes can have a cumulative healthful effect, and every little bit (or bite!) of nutrition is a step in the right direction.”

This year’s theme “Bite by Bite” has several key weekly messages including; eating a variety of nutritious foods, the benefits of planning out meals each week, and identifying resources for learning culinary skills to create healthy food. Everyone can use these tips to become more mindful of what we put in our mouth — dietitians included!

Here are some specific suggestions to help us reach these goals:

Eat a variety of nutritious foods every day: 

  • Try to include healthful foods from all food groups. For example, try to choose dark green leafy vegetables as well as vibrantly colored fruits, especially berries. Strive for filling half your plate with vegetables and fruit at each meal.
  • Choose a variety of both animal and plant-based proteins and try to include heart-healthy fish, like salmon, twice per week.
  • Learn how to properly read the nutrition facts panel to understand the nutrition in your food. Here’s a guide to understanding how to read a food label.
  • Take time to practice mindfulness while enjoying your food each day. Chew your food slowly and focus on the meal, rather than the news on your smartphone. Studies show that when we are mindful, we may eat less and concentrate on more healthful foods.
  • Plan out meals each week:
    • Plan a week’s worth of menus by using inspiration from the web, such as recipes from healthy food magazine sites, or inspiration from your favorite healthy cookbooks. Check out CHOC’s healthy meal prep tips for busy parents.
    • Use a grocery list to shop for healthy foods and take inventory of what you have before leaving home. Here’s a list of tips for healthy grocery shopping.
    • Plan for what you will eat while traveling to school and work by either packing a healthy lunch or scoping out what healthy items you can buy at restaurants or markets near you.
    • Double up on recipes for healthy dinners so you can take leftovers for lunch.
  • Learn culinary skills:
    • YouTube videos abound with cooking techniques. My family learned out to make our favorite steak from watching a YouTube video of our favorite celebrity chef!
    • Most grocery stores or butchers offer tips and suggestions on how to cook specific proteins and other healthy items.
    • Many classes available at local community centers focus on culinary arts for both adults and children.

Consulting with a registered dietitian can help you achieve your nutrition goals. Both dietitians and dietetic technicians are trained in personalizing nutrition advice to meet your specific goals and unique needs.

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