Eating nutrient-dense foods, appropriate portion sizes and limiting sugary beverages are important year-round. Since March is National Nutrition Month, however, it’s worth a closer look at these three priorities that can make for a healthier lifestyle.
National Nutrition Month is an awareness campaign from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics with weekly focus areas and tips at eatright.org. This year’s theme is “Personalize Your Plate” in recognition that we all have different cultural backgrounds and preferences, but we still can make healthy choices with our diet and physical activity.
Including nutrient-dense foods in your diet is a key part of a healthy diet. When your diet contains foods that are full of the nutrients your body needs, you will have a healthy immune system that can protect you from seasonal illnesses and other health problems.
Beta carotene is a key nutrient that you can find in carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, bell peppers and strawberries. Protein is another important nutrient that you get from seafood, lean meat, eggs, and non-animal sources like beans, peas nuts and seeds.
These are just some of the essential nutrients that you should make sure that you take in through your diet.
Keeping track of appropriate portion sizes is a key part of a healthy diet. Each different food type has a different portion size and serving size.
The serving size is just a standardized amount of food, but the portion size is how much you choose to eat. These two can be different, but it is important to know the difference so that when you check the nutritional information on a portion of food, you can know how much nutrition you are getting.
Some tips to help visualize these sizes: 1 cup is about the size of a fist or a baseball; 1/2 cup is about the size of a tennis ball or a small scooped handful; 3 ounces is about the size of a deck of cards or your palm; one tablespoon is about the size of your thumb; a teaspoon is about the size of a postage stamp or the tip of your pointer finger.
Last, limiting sugary beverages can help you maintain a healthy diet. Many people unknowingly take in a significant amount of sugar through beverages like fruit juice, sodas, sweet tea and sports drinks. So the best advice is to drink water.
Water should be everyone’s main drink throughout the day. You should aim to drink half your body weight in ounces each day, so if you weigh 200 pounds, shoot for 100 ounces of water a day.
Limiting sodas whether diet or sugar is critical; aim for no more than 12 ounces a day. Sports drinks are sneaky as far as their sugar content. They may seem like a healthy choice, but avoid them unless you are actively participating in a sport.
Throughout March, keep these three ideas in mind and start — or continue — some healthy dietary habits for National Nutrition Month.
Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for a healthy diet, so personalize your plate with these guiding principles in mind.
For more information on this topic and many others, contact the Etowah County Extension Office, 256-547-7936 or 3200 A W. Meighan Blvd., Gadsden. Eric Wright is extension coordinator for the Etowah County Extension Office.