By Michael Mendoza, MS, RD, LD
March is National Nutrition Month, an annual campaign driven by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that focuses on the importance of making informed food choices, developing sound eating habits and maintaining regular physical activity. This year’s theme is “Fuel for the Future” – a great reminder that the food and drinks you consume today will work as fuel for your body and mind in the future.
Fortunately, establishing a well-balanced meal plan doesn’t have to be intimidating. Taking small steps toward changing your eating habits can add up to big strides that will positively impact your overall health.
Here are five steps to get you started.
- Plan meals ahead of time. Before going grocery shopping, take inventory of what food you already have so you know what you need to purchase. Research healthy recipes that use items you currently have and fill your list with only what you need for the week. Portioning out your lunches or dinners in advance can also save time, help you maintain portion control and keep you accountable to your healthy eating decisions.
- Try new recipes. They say variety is the spice of life. It’s also an important part of healthy eating. Different foods provide different nutrients, so incorporating a variety of foods from all of the food groups into your daily diet can help ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need. Healthy salads piled high with nutritious (and filling) toppings like fresh, colorful and fiber-rich veggies and well-balanced meals covering a variety of food groups are a great way to maintain some variety.
- Switch it up with spices. Many of us experience burnout and frustration – and yes, even boredom – when attempting to stick to healthy eating habits. By giving your routine meals a tasty, new twist, you can avoid falling back into bad eating habits. Research new flavors, spices and herbs you haven’t tried and learn different ways to spice up your old recipes.
- Get creative with leftovers. Use your creativity and look for ways to repurpose leftovers into brand new meals. Turn those last couple of chicken breasts and leftover roasted vegetables into a savory stew or mix leftover pasta with some fresh veggies to make a pasta salad for lunch the next day. You’ll be stretching your dollar without stretching your waistline.
- Ask for advice. It’s important to remember you’re not alone on your journey to good health. If you need help to develop a well-balanced diet or are looking for guidance on healthy eating habits, talk with a local nutritionist or dietitian. Nutritionists can be a great resource for relatable, personalized nutrition advice that can help you maintain good health long into the future.
Learn more about healthy eating habits at eatright.org. Visit mmclc.org to find out about Memorial Medical Center’s outpatient dietitian clinic.