March is National Nutrition Month! The theme for this year, as announced by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” This theme was chosen to serve as a reminder that taking even the smallest of steps when it comes to nutrition can lead to long, lasting health benefits. To help you get started in putting your best fork forward, we have 10 simple actions you can take to celebrate National Nutrition Month with your family.
1. Focus on What You Can Add
You’ll be hard-pressed to find the words “don’t”, “shouldn’t”, and “never” in our nutrition vocabulary! We encourage our readers to focus on what healthy habits you can add to your lifestyle, versus what you have to give up. Focusing on addition, rather than subtraction, also prevents feelings of deprivation, and helps boost motivation to keep you on track with your health goals long-term. Here are three things to focus on adding this month:
2. Add Protein at Every Meal
As simple way to fuel your day is by adding some protein to each meal. This could be in the form of a plant based protein, like beans, nuts or tofu, or an animal protein, like meat, dairy or eggs. Having a serving of protein at every meal can help keep you full and satisfied, preventing those moments of extreme hunger (that often lead to overeating), and intense cravings. We know this can be hard, especially if you’re running out of the house quickly and all you have time for is a slice of toast! At the beginning of the week, try hard boiling some eggs, whipping up a large batch of tuna salad to spread on toast or to top a salad, or making up small baggies of almonds to keep on hand as a snack.
3. Add Fruits & Veggies
It’s no secret that fruits and veggies are nutrient powerhouses. And you don’t have to eat a salad to get your daily dose! Get creative with fruits and veggies by sneaking them in in unexpected places. Make a peanut butter and blueberry sandwich (the blueberries are a great substitute for jelly) for lunch, dip strawberries in Nutella as a snack, put a colorful array of veggies on top of your pizza, or blend some roasted eggplant into your jarred pasta sauce and use to top whole wheat pasta. Focus on consuming a variety of colors, and finding flavorful ways to incorporate this food group into your favorite meals.
4. Add Water!
If you want to see why we’re so crazy about hydration, check out this post, and this post. This is one of the easiest things to add to your diet because, it’s free! If you find it hard to get enough water, simply start by drinking a glass in the morning and a glass in the evening. This simple change could give you just the boost you need to keep your body hydrated and your metabolism working efficiently.
5. Find Satisfaction in Your Food
Nutrition is much more than what you eat. It’s also how you eat! Find nutritious foods that you actually enjoy and savor the flavors, aromas, and textures of your meal. I know this might be hard with busy schedules resulting in multi-tasking each meal. But even if you can find time to enjoy just one meal or snack a day at a table, or in a comfortable spot and really be present with each bite, you’ll start to notice that your food is much more satisfying and can actually add pleasure to your everyday life.
6. Indulge in Feel-Good Fitness
People always ask us, what’s the best workout to do? Well, if you know about our program CYCLE Kids, you know we’re a big fan of bicycling. However, we think the best workout to participate in, is the one that you love! Ultimately, the exercise that you enjoy is going to be the one that you stick with long term.
7. Schedule Family Meals
Family meals is an important habit to cultivate in order to develop a healthier relationship with food and with each other. Family dinners have also been linked to lower risk of substance abuse and eating disorders, and an increased chance of graduating from high school. If you can’t make this much-needed family connection part of your everyday life, try to schedule a few meals per week that can be dedicated to family time. Having something on the calendar makes it easier for everyone to work around, and will decrease the chances that someone will skip it!
8. Try Something New
Eating nutritiously can be especially hard when you feel like you’re “stuck in a rut.” This month, try something new with your family! It could be as simple as trying a new fruit or vegetable, or have your family find a new recipe that they can make together. Adding new nutritious foods into your repertoire can help prevent boredom, and make healthy eating more exciting.
9. Unplug For a Day (Or an Hour)
Taking some time away from email, social media, and even television can help bring you into the present and make it a little easier to tap into your body’s internal hunger and fullness cues. Getting rid of those external distractions can also help you be more present for each meal or snack, and help you to eat more mindfully, while learning to savor each bite.
10. Find Balance
If you’ve read this previous post, you know we place a big emphasis on balancing your plate. But, we also think it’s important to balance all aspects of your diet. Eating nutritiously and healthfully doesn’t mean eating “perfectly” or following strict rules or guidelines. It means fueling your body with nourishing foods, while also allowing yourself to indulge in your favorite treats like cookies, chips, ice cream, or whatever you like! Allowing yourself to indulge will make it easier to follow a healthful diet in the long run.
Which of these tips will you try for National Nutrition Month? Let us know in the comments below!