a-family-making-saladIt is only about two months since those New Year resolutions were made to exercise more and eat healthier. Some may have been successful in achieving their goal while far more may have fallen back into the same old habits of skipping meals, eating on the run, being what some may call “a junk food junky.”

But now, during March which is National Nutrition Month, it is a good time for you to demonstrate the importance of good nutrition by selecting and eating healthy foods whether at work, home, school, or eating out. (1) March is a great month to reevaluate your food choices as we start to see a change in the seasons. As spring approaches, nature’s renewal will bring a new energy to the world, new life, and a new spirit of discovery.

The National Nutrition Month theme this year is Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle,  which promotes the beauty of selecting healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetable and the array of flavors, colors and textures that they provide. (1) Nutritious eating is more about the types of nutrient dense foods you actually get into your body verses just knowing what you should stay away from. (2) Although taste and food traditions has long been rated as the primary reasons why people eat the foods that they eat, consumers are learning that healthy foods can also taste great when prepared in new and interesting combination. (2) So, during this year’s National Nutrition Month, I’m joining with other nutrition professionals in calling on you to re-commit yourself to take a little more time in food selections to make sure that you are getting in nutrient packed foods at all meals and snacks. Making informed food choices is important to creating a healthy lifestyle, along with participating in regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight. (1,2)

Nutrient dense foods refer to foods that provide a large amount of healthy substances that has been shown to keep the body functioning at its best compared to the calories provided. In all food categories, whether choosing from the grain, protein, fruit, vegetable, or dairy group, some foods will be higher in nutrients than others.

Some nutrients have been identified in the 2010 US Dietary Guidelines and the Choose MyPlate Food Guide in foods to eat more of, which includes foods rich in potassium, fiber, calcium, vitamin D, folate, iron, and vitamin B12. (2) These nutrients have been shown to be at lower levels in the average American diet. Keying on increasing these nutrients in the meals and snacks may help lower your risks for several health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and some types of cancer. (2)

People living with diabetes, who maintain a high fiber intake, have been shown to maintain better control of their blood sugar levels and have better overall health. (3,4) Having these healthy foods in their fresh state or with the least amount of processing will help to maintain their nutrient content. However, frozen or canned foods may still provide the needed nutrients. But, to select the best choice, it is recommended that you learn how to read and interpret the Nutrition Facts labels provided on the package. It is up to you to take the time to know what you are getting out of the foods that you eat to reduce the risk of disease and maintain healthy living. (4)

Below you will find a listing of some great tasting nutrition powerhouse foods to add to your food lists.

How many have you tried this month?

Healthy, Nutrient Dense Foods

Nutrients Provided

Apples

Quercertin, fiber, vitamin C, Boron

Blue Berries (and other berries)

Flavonoids, vitamin C, potassium, fiber, folate, anthocyanidins

Grapes, Red and Green

Resveratrol, potassium,

Cantaloupe

Potassium, beta carotene, vitamin C

Kiwi

Vitamin C, potassium, fiber

Oranges (and other citrus fruits)

Vitamin C, Biotin, folic Acid, fiber

Tomatoes

Lycopene, vitamin C, potassium

Sweet Potatoes

Beta Carotene, fiber, potassium

Green Peppers

Vitamin C, Vitamin A, potassium,

Cabbage and other greens

Lutein, potassium, beta carotene, folate, vitamin C & A, iron, calcium

Carrots

Beta Carotene, fiber, potassium, vitamin A

Broccoli

Folate, Beta Carotene, Lutein, vitamin C & B, iron,

Red Beans(and other dry beans and peas) and soybeans

Fiber, iron, calcium, vitamin B, folate, potassium, magnesium, isoflavones

Whole Grains (e.g., whole wheat, quinoa, barley, wild rice)  

Vitamin B2, B6, B12, A, E, and D, folate, potassium, magnesium, selenium, protein, iron

Nuts and Seeds

Protein, B-vitamins, Vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber, resveratrol

Low fat Milk and Dairy Foods (e.g., low fat yogurt, low fat cheese, Kefir)

Calcium, vitamins A & D, Riboflavin, potassium, protein

Fish, Poultry, and Lean Meats

Protein, iron, zinc, Omega 3 fish oil,

Source: Greer, Y. (2013) Back to the Kitchen: Healthy Cooking Series. Milwaukee, WI: Milwaukee Childhood Obesity Prevention Program. The information was retrieved from here.

Today, there are an abundance of healthy and great tasting foods to choose from. By taking the time to concentrate on eating healthy foods throughout the coming months, you will find that you’ve created a healthier eating habit that you can continue throughout the year and for a lifetime. (4,5) Also, for those who interact with young children or teens, you may be helping to shape the foods that they will eat as an adult. Studies have shown that the number one influencer of the foods that children eat is what is served in the home. (5) Once you get a taste for nutrition, healthy eating will becomes a way of life!  

Yvonne is the owner of Y-EAT Right…Nutritional Consultant for Healthy Living, She conducts special workshops to promote healthy nutritional and living behaviors. To find out more about her services email her at: yeatright@aol.com or phone her at (414) 639-5660.

References:
1.) National Nutrition Month (March 2015). Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The information was retrieved from here.
2.) USDA & USHHS (2014). Choose MyPlate Food Guide. Washington D.C.: Food and Nutrition Service. The information was retrieved from here
3.) Greer, Y. (2013). Diabetes and obesity: reducing your health risks. In: Real Life: The Hands-on, Pounds-off Guide, Milwaukee, WI: TOPS Club, Inc.
4.) Greer, Y. (2013) Back to the Kitchen: Healthy Cooking Series. Milwaukee, WI: Milwaukee Childhood Obesity Prevention Program. The information was retrieved from here.   
5.) Greer, Y, et al., (2009). Role Modeling Action Guide. Milwaukee, WI: Milwaukee County Nutrition and Physical Activity Coalition. The information was retrieved from here.