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.
You should enjoy your diet. In choosing nutrient-rich foods, you'll notice they are familiar, easy to find and represent the five basic food groups. Achieving balance and building a healthier diet can be simple and stress-free.
Selecting nutrient-rich foods and beverages first is a way to make better choices within your daily eating plan. Choose first among the basic food groups:
- Brightly colored fruits and 100-percent fruit juice
- Vibrantly colored vegetables including potatoes
- Whole-grain, fortified and fiber-rich grain foods
- Low-fat and fat-free milk, cheese and yogurt
- Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts
Here are some practical ways for you to add nutrient-rich foods and beverages to your daily diet.
- Make creamier oatmeal by adding fat-free milk instead of water. Mix in some raisins, dried cranberries, cherries or blueberries too.
- Make sandwiches on whole-grain bread, such as whole wheat or whole rye. Add slices of avocado, tomato or cucumber to fillings such as lean roast beef, ham, turkey or chicken.
- Whole-wheat macaroni and cheese is a great way to enjoy a whole-grain food with a serving of dairy.
- When eating out, look for nutrient-rich choices such as entrée salads with grilled seafood and low-calorie dressing, baked potatoes topped with salsa, grilled vegetables and reduced-fat cheese, and yogurt parfaits made with strawberries and blueberries.
- Choose nutrient-rich beverages such as low-fat or fat-free plain or flavored milk or 100-percent fruit juice.
- Top foods with chopped nuts or reduced-fat shredded sharp cheese to get crunch, flavor and nutrients from the first bite.
- Spend a few minutes to cut and bag vegetables so they are in easy reach for every family member — these include ready-to-eat favorites such as red, green or yellow peppers, broccoli or cauliflower florets, carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers, snap peas or whole radishes. Keep cut vegetables handy for mid-afternoon snacks, side dishes, lunch box additions or a quick nibble while waiting for dinner.
- Serve meals that pack multiple nutrient-rich foods into one dish, such as hearty, broth-based soups that are full of colorful vegetables, beans and lean meat. Make chili with a dollop of low-fat yogurt. Serve these with whole-grain breads or rolls.
- For dessert, enjoy a tropical treat by blending mango, plain low-fat milk, ice and a splash of pineapple juice. Stir chocolate syrup into a cup of coffee-flavored yogurt, freeze and enjoy.