Written by Melissa Herrmann Dierks RDN, LDN, CDE
March is National Nutrition Month, a great time to spring clean your refrigerator and pantry. New Year’s resolutions are starting to get dusty, yet shorts weather is just around the corner. The recent snow days made it easy to indulge on high calorie comfort food while trapped in the house with kids, so March is a great time to get the family back on track with healthy eating.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has deemed this year’s theme “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right”. Choosing healthy foods does not mean giving up your favorites. Trying to eliminate favorite foods and beverages does not work. Trying to eat foods that you do not like also does not work. Choosing a variety of foods in moderation within a well-balanced diet does work.
Ingredient swaps, adding balance and moderate portion sizes can help you include favorites into a healthy diet. Keep these tips in mind:
Ingredient swaps: Look for your favorite food in lower calorie options. The marketplace recently announced that food corporations have cut trillions of calories which means there are lots of low and no calorie options out there. If you are a soda fan, look for diet options with zero calories. If it’s water with a twist of flavor you desire, look for zero calorie options such as fruitwater.
Balance: Love mac and cheese? Instead of having only mac and cheese on your plate, balance it with vegetables. Choose a one cup serving and add a half plate of non-starchy vegetables such as green beans, broccoli or carrots, and a small serving of fruit which can be fresh, frozen, canned or dried. Is pizza on the menu? Choose 1-2 slices (limit high fat meat toppings and add lots of veggies), add a vegetable salad with reduced fat dressing and a serving of fruit for dessert.
Moderate portion sizes: Walking past your favorite ice cream parlor? Ask for a kid’s cup portion. Dreaming of some salty, crunchy potato chips? Go for a single serving bag portion vs. dipping into a large bag and losing track of your intake. Split that high fat Mexican entrée with your dining partner, chances are you will both get enough to eat and you will cut your calorie intake in half. Choose the regular hamburger at fast food instead of the large or double size burger, and small fries instead of large. Keep an eye out for ideas on how you can reduce portion size of favorite foods that tend to be higher calorie choices.
Getting back to basics, the key to a healthy diet is balance, variety and moderation. National Nutrition Month is a great time to visit with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for personalized nutrition help. Visit www.eatright.org to find a RDN in your neighborhood. For step by step instruction on choosing foods by brand name and stocking a healthy pantry, visit Amazon to take a look at the Healthy Kitchen Check Up Kit from Supermarket Savvy.
Melissa Herrmann Dierks RDN, LDN, CDE is a nutrition consultant and owner of the Huntersville-based Eat Smart Nutrition Co. Melissa is a consultant to the food and beverage industry including Coca Cola, although opinions are her own.