Friday, March 7, 2014

March is National Nutrition Month!

March is National Nutrition Month, an annual event sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which reminds us to focus on making informed food choices along with healthy eating and physical activity habits. Each year this month-long event has a theme and the theme for this year is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right”. That sounds pretty catchy, but what exactly does it mean? Well consumer research has shown that people tend to eat more of foods that they like the taste of… this seems like a no-brainer here. So using this information, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that the goal for this year’s theme is to “combine taste and nutrition to create healthy meals that follow the Dietary Guidelines recommendations”. The unfortunate part about all this is the idea that some people think that healthy foods are equivalent to foods that don’t taste good. But is that really true? I find it difficult to believe that there is a majority of people out there who don’t like the taste of foods like strawberries, beans, chicken, carrots, fish, nuts, olive oil, asparagus, oranges, avocados, beef, etc. There are so many foods from each food group that are considered “healthy” that it leaves me confused as to how we got to this idea that “healthy” foods taste bad. Is a steak healthy? Are potatoes healthy? Of course! They have nutrients that our bodies need, but does this mean we should eat them every single day? Of course not! I think that the big takeaway that you can get from nutrition education is balance, or as many RDs like to say “all things in moderation”.

This leads me to what the theme “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” means to me which is to focus on eating whole foods and a variety of them. If we think of dinner as, I want a piece of grilled chicken with broccoli and rice instead of a lean cuisine TV dinner or a fast food chicken sandwich, we are thinking in terms of whole foods and not quick processed meals which frankly are less satisfying. Besides choosing whole foods, eating a variety of different foods from all of the food groups is so important. All foods do not contain the same things. This is why we need to eat a variety of foods from the grains, protein, dairy, fruits, vegetables and fat/oil groups to be able to get all of the nutrients that our bodies need to function every day. Just think about it, if our bodies did not need the nutrients provided by certain food groups then those foods would not exist in nature in the first place! Which is why diets that exclude or restrict certain food groups are absolutely ridiculous to me, but that’s another story.

So we can eat “right” by choosing a variety of whole foods from each food group but how can we “enjoy” it? It’s simple, play a more active role in your eating experience. Go online or ask friends for tips on new recipes to try, using foods you’ve never eaten before; make your meal a cultural experience by cooking a traditional Middle Eastern, Asian, Latin American or some other cultural dish; keep whole foods available at home to use for snacks such as nuts, fruits, cheese, crackers, trail mix, etc.; cook and eat with friends; and be mindful during your meal by really noticing the color, texture, smell and taste of the food you are eating, you may realize that the satisfaction that you get from your meal is enhanced when you do this.

So what I hope you get from this blog is that you use the theme “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” by choosing a variety of whole foods from each food group and being more active in the eating experience. And once you’ve done that, make it a habit!      

Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ website at: for more information on National Nutrition Month.

--Stefanie MS, RD