Put Your Best Fork Forward for National Nutrition Month

Each March we celebrate National Nutrition Month by focusing on eating smart for better health. For 2017, the theme is Put Your Best Fork Forward. Building on the idea of MyPlate, MyWins, this month is about finding small changes to our food choices one forkful at a time. Making these small changes a lasting part of your lifestyle adds up to a big impact on your health over time.

Every Bite Counts

Everything you eat or drink matters. But eating smart doesn’t mean changing your entire eating pattern overnight. Most people struggle to drastically overhaul how they eat and maintain these changes for a lifetime. Finding small shifts to healthier foods and beverages works better for most people. Here are a few ideas to inspire you to put your best fork forward.

  • Drink water instead of sugary beverages. Water is calorie-free, sugar-free, and conveniently available at your kitchen faucet. Sugary beverages add lots of extra calories with no nutritional benefit. This is always the first small step to eating smart and slimming down that I recommend to people.
  • Make half your grains whole grains. This is a fairly easy switch to make. Whole grains are pretty similar in price and can be used in the same ways as their refined alternatives. They do tend to need a little longer to cook, though. Whole grains are higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They also are slower to digest, keeping your blood sugar more even and making you feel fuller longer.
  • Move to low-fat (1%) or nonfat (skim) milk and yogurt. This switch is even easier because you don’t have to adjust cooking times! It might take a little time for your taste buds to adjust, but you’ll get used to lower fat dairy products. You’ll still be getting the same essential nutrients, but with less calories and saturated fat.
  • Vary your protein foods. Add in one or two meatless meals to your menu each week. Plant-based proteins are cheaper than meat or poultry. Aim for two servings of seafood each week to get enough omega-3 fatty acids, important nutrients for brain health.
  • Make half your plate fruits and veggies. Everyone can benefit from eating more nutrient-dense fruits and veggies. Eating more produce is not as expensive as most people think, especially if you eat in season. Try serving one extra fruit or vegetable a day and add them to more meals over time.


Strategies for Better Forks

A lot of times, we know what to do to eat smart. But we struggle with how to do it or the motivation to do it. These strategies make eating smarter more practical for busy families.

  • Cook more at home. The more control you have over ingredients in your meals, the easier it is to make healthy choices. There are lots of quick and easy recipes for busy nights or beginner cooks. Take a look at our recipe collection to find some inspiration.
  • Experiment with healthier ingredients. Sometimes we get in a rut of eating the same thing over and over again. But variety is the spice of life. Start out with trying one or two new ingredients to see how you like them. This is a great opportunity to let your kids help. They’re more likely to try and enjoy food they picked out and helped to prepare.
  • Practice portion control. How much we eat is as important as what we eat. MyPlate’s SuperTracker is a helpful tool for getting personalized recommendations for calories and servings of each food group you should be eating.

I know that I’ve given quite a few recommendations for how to celebrate National Nutrition Month. I’m a Registered Dietitian and this is what I love to do! But the most important part of the theme is that this is your fork. Find a healthy eating style that works for you. Make the shifts that you are ready to change. You know your taste preferences, cooking skills, and schedule best. So this month, focus on how to make the best eating choices that fit your life. But if you need any advice, inspiration, or want to share your successes, I’d love to hear from you.

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