March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Do you ever feel as though a sweet tooth or craving for salty foods is holding you back from your health goals? The good news is that with a few simple changes to your eating and cooking habits, you can still eat right while including these occasional treats.
Start building a smarter plate by choosing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy — foods that are packed with the nutrients you need without all the added sugars and solid fats. In addition, you can help reduce your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke by eating less sodium.
Eat Fewer Foods High in Solid Fats
- Opt for lean ground beef, turkey and chicken. Cut back on processed meats such as hot dogs, salami and bacon.
- Grill, broil, bake or steam foods instead of frying.
- Cook with healthy oils such as olive, canola and sunflower oils in place of partially-hydrogenated oils or butter.
- Select low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese.
Choose Foods and Drinks with Little or No Added Sugars
- Switch to water, low-fat or fat-free milk or 100-percent fruit juice in moderate amounts.
- For additional taste, add lemons, limes or cucumbers to water or drink unsweetened carbonated water.
- Eat fresh fruit for dessert instead of cakes, cookies or pastries.
- Buy foods with little-to-no added sugars, including unsweetened applesauce or unsweetened whole-grain cereals.
Cut Back on Sodium
- Instead of salt, use herbs and spices to season foods.
- Do not add salt when cooking pasta, rice and vegetables.
- Read the Nutrition Facts Label to compare the sodium content of high-sodium foods such as pre-made foods, frozen meals, bread, canned soups and vegetables.
For more information on healthful changes you can make to your eating plan, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area.