March is National Nutrition Month

Bite into a healthy lifestyle!

National Nutrition Month® is an annual nutrition education and information campaign ran in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits, the same focus areas within Michigan State University Extension health and nutrition programs. The theme for 2015 is “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle,” which encourages everyone to adopt eating and physical activity plans that focus on: 

  • Consuming fewer calories
  • Making informed food choices
  • Getting daily exercise to achieve and maintain healthy weight 
  • Reducing the risk of chronic disease
  • Promoting overall health

When planning your daily meals, make sure to include foods that contain the nutrients you need without too many calories. Over the day, try to consume foods from all the food groups. 

Tips for creating a healthy meal:

  • Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. Fresh, frozen, dried and/or canned fruits and vegetables count. When choosing canned vegetables make sure to purchase ones that are “reduced sodium” or “no salt added.” Eat a variety of colors such as dark-green, red and orange vegetables, plus beans and peas. Canned fruits should be packaged in water or 100 percent juice. 
  • Make at least half your grains whole. Choose 100 percent whole grain breads, cereals, pasta and brown rice. Read the ingredients list to determine the amount of whole grain in a food item, or read Label language: whole grains for more information. 
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk. Fat-free and low-fat milk contain the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but less fat and calories.
  • Vary your protein. Eat a variety of protein food options each week such as seafood, nuts and beans, as well as lean meat, poultry and eggs. Keep meat and poultry portions small and lean. 
  • Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars. Drink water instead of sugary drinks. When purchasing food, read the nutrition label to find the amount of sodium and choose items with lower numbers. Try adding herbs and spices to season your food instead of salt. Foods that contain saturated fats such as pizza, cheese and desserts should be eaten occasionally, not every day. Switch from using solid fats to using oils when preparing food. 

A well-balanced diet combined with daily physical activity can decrease your risk of chronic disease such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and arthritis.  

Tips for exercise success:

  • Change how you think about exercise. Think about ways to add movement into your day rather than exercise. For example, get up and move during commercials or go for a walk after a meal.
  • Make movement a priority. Schedule a time every day to exercise, just like an appointment.
  • Start the day out right. Those who exercise first thing in the morning are less likely to skip their routine. 
  • Think about your home as your gym. Exercises can be modified so they can be performed without the use of treadmills or weight machines. It’s all about making your exercise movements purposeful and repeating them. 
  • Build up your support system. It goes beyond inviting a friend to work out with you to hold you accountable. Make sure the people in your life know how serious you are about increasing your physical activity. When they understand your priorities, they’re less likely to accidentally undermine your good habits. 
  • Take the first step. Any movement is better than none. Don’t get hung up on goals that might feel impossible. Inching just a little closer to the middle from doing nothing is all that matters! 

For more on healthy eating and/or physical activity guidelines along with helpful tips, interactive activities and resources, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at www.eatright.org/nnm or the Michigan Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at http://www.eatrightmich.org/home.asp

For local nutrition education programs and resources within MSU Extension, please visit http://msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/food_health.

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