According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, March is National Nutrition Month®. This is an annual campaign they sponsor across the country to educate and inform people about nutrition. The www.eatright.org website says “the campaign is designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.” The campaign began as a week-long event in March of 1973. In 1980, due to the amount of public interest and excitement, it became a month-long observance.
This year’s theme is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.” Taste often trumps nutritional value when choosing foods. Let’s face it: most of us would choose a slice of gooey cheesy pizza topped with all manner of greasy toppings over a spinach salad with grilled chicken any day. We’d rather have the carbs, grease, and all that makes the pizza taste so good. Salads can be bland and uninteresting if we aren’t dressing them up to make them more palatable.
So how do we combine the fact that we need more nutritious choices in our diet with the love affair we have with taste? How do we get our children to eat their fruits and vegetables? There are many resources available from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on their website, www.eatright.org. The government has also set forth its own recommendations for healthy eating. They say that fully half of the plate should be made up of fruits and vegetables at EVERY meal.
Mom always told you to eat your fruits and veggies to grow up strong. That is still important today, for both children and adults. It is vital to start to those healthy habits as children, but also equally important to continue them into adulthood. Fruits and vegetables are the building blocks we need to ensure strong bones, a sharp mind, and a healthy nervous system. Our bodies need the nutrients contained in live foods in order to nourish us appropriately and keep our systems running smoothly.
Some experts say that we begin to lose bone mass as early as age 30. We need the calcium contained in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, okra, and collard greens. If you take warfarin (Coumadin), it is important to eat the same amount of these leafy greens every week to ensure that your PT/INR (blood tests that affect blood clotting and viscosity) levels remain steady. If you are not going to eat the same amount every day, these foods should be avoided when taking warfarin. Also, discuss this with your provider before making these dietary changes. One way to get these greens into your diet (especially if you don’t like the taste) is to include them in a smoothie. If you are already on the smoothie craze, it is easy to add these greens into your existing routine without even knowing they’re there!
We need the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as Wild Alaskan Salmon, Atlantic Mackerel, Sardines, Black Cod, Rainbow Trout, Albacore Tuna, and Pacific Halibut. We can also find these omega-3 fats in flaxseed, walnuts, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and wild rice. You can supplement your diet with omega-3 supplements found over the counter at various places, including your local pharmacy or herbal store.
Healthy Nervous System
Vitamin B-12 is key to healthy nervous system function. It is also important for red blood cell creation and function. Vitamin B-12 can be found in foods such as lean beef, low fat dairy, Swiss cheese, and chicken eggs. For vegetarians, you can supplement with fortified soy (tofu), fortified bran cereals, and supplements available over the counter.
It is also vital to stay hydrated. Our bodies are made up mostly of water. Water has many functions in our body, including but not limited to flushing out toxins, regulating body temperature, regulating blood pressure, and healthy skin. To get enough water you should consume half your body weight (pounds) in ounces of water every day. For example if you weigh 160 pounds, you should consume at least 80 ounces of water every day. Avoid drinks high in processed sugars, as those promote dehydration. This would include soda (both diet and regular) and juices containing high fructose corn syrup. As always, if you have a condition that would restrict your fluid intake such as kidney failure or congestive heart failure, please discuss this with your healthcare provider before making the change in your life.
This month, focus on your nutritional health. For more information, see your healthcare provider for referral to a registered dietician who can help you improve your nutritional health.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN