National Nutrition Month: Eat Right to Feel Good

Today marks the start of National Nutrition Month! What better time to start eating well so you feel good?

Here are a few ideas to kick-start healthy habits and “get your plate in shape!”

Eat to feel good. Not to be skinny. An hourglass figure or abs of steel is not the pinnacle of health and well-being. Despite popular belief, looking razor thin is not the key to the kingdom. Moreover, measuring yourself against models and movie stars will get you nowhere but depressed. Wholeheartedly and permanently embracing better eating habits is the right path to energized days and your optimal weight.

The less you worry about taking off the pounds, the more that food becomes a conduit to a fitter and happier you.

Understand the basics of nutrition. You don’t have to be a food expert to be smart about what you’re eating. But make sure you know how to read food labels, understand food claims and can differentiate what organic foods might be worth the investment. There are plenty of healthy options that won’t break the bank.

Books, classes and registered dieticians are few beneficial resources if you wish to learn more.

Learn how to cook. You never know what you’re putting into your body unless you make it yourself. How could you possibly monitor calories, fat and vitamins if you’re always eating out or grabbing something on the go? In addition to eating higher quality foods, another benefit of cooking at home is reducing waste and saving money.

If you don’t know how to cook, read a book, watch TV, take a class or watch some videos online. Even if you are a more seasoned chef, these same tools are great refreshers.

Eat a balanced diet. It’s important to consume a recommended mix of macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein and fat – to stabilize insulin levels and maintain a more consistent level of energy throughout the day. The USDA provides a loose set of guidelines:

• 45% to 65% of calories eaten should come from carbohydrates
• 20% to 35% of calories eaten should come from fat
• 10% to 35% of calories eaten should come from protein

Even if you don’t want to count calories and grams, make sure you are not teetering on the macronutrient seesaw by having too much or little of a needed thing. And also make sure you are getting your carbs, fat and protein from nutritious sources.

Eat your greens! And fruits, too. One way to get eating habits on the right track is to consume adequate vegetables and fruits throughout the day.  Add berries to your breakfast cereal, slice up an apple at lunch and throw pears on a salad at dinner. Eat raw vegetables with hummus for an afternoon snack instead of chips and salsa or crackers and cheese.

The USDA loosely recommends 3-5 servings of vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruit each day.  Are you getting your daily dose?

Choose healthy, whole foods. If you can grow your own veggies, you’ll enjoy the tastiest and healthiest treats around. Farmers’ markets are another great way to sample home-grown food that’s in season, while also supporting your community. A local grocer offers good products, too.  Just be sure to buy wholesome ingredients and make the dish yourself.

Though processed foods aren’t always unhealthy, many contain unwanted preservatives, fillers and sugars. So play it safe – and go whole.

Cook in season. One of the easiest things you can do to prepare a delicious meal is to buy, prepare and eat food that’s in season. Foods that are in season are fresher and more flavorful than those which aren’t.  Even looking at a display of colorful, fresh produce can inspire creative menus!

Vegetables and fruits that are in season have a wonderful taste, so complex preparation techniques are not necessary. In fact, you don’t have to add loads of ingredients to boost the flavor of a food product that tastes scrumptious on its own. That also means less work and less stress in the kitchen, and usually fewer dollars from your wallet, too.

Plan your meals. Planning your meals ahead of time has a number of wonderful advantages:

  • saves time with fewer last minute trips to the store
  • saves money by buying only what you nee
  • avoids waste by using everything you buy
  • alleviates stress by knowing what you are going to prepare, when

Try to find a short period of time once/week, perhaps on a weekend, when you can plan out meals for the upcoming week. Take a look at magazines, cookbooks or websites for inspiration. Ask your family if they have any preferences. Then layout the plan and create your grocery list.  Here’s a Meal Planner and Grocery List that might help.

Celebrate meals. It’s so easy to eat fast, often while multi-tasking, and rush to the next commitment of the day – without even acknowledging the flavors you have just savored. Mindful eating is a way to enjoy one of the simple pleasures in life – good food! Eating more slowly and with greater awareness satisfies your senses, fills your belly and nourishes your soul.

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Melinda Hinson