by Laura Buxenbaum, MPH, RD, LDN

 

If eating healthier topped your New Year’s resolution list, the good news is you still have time to achieve this worthy goal.  Adding more nutritious foods does not mean deprivation or a total overhaul of your entire lifestyle. It’s the daily small changes, made over time, which can truly become habits. March is National Nutrition Month and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is encouraging everyone to eat healthier with the theme “Put Your Best Fork Forward” by starting small—one forkful at a time.  Stick to your healthy eating resolutions with these tips.

Focus on Variety
It’s easy to get into an eating rut, especially when you think you must stick to certain foods to be your healthiest. It’s good to remember that when it comes to filling a plate with healthful foods, variety is key. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines noted four nutrients of concern that many Americans are missing:

  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin D
  • Fiber

By simply adding more fruits, vegetables, dairy, lean protein and whole grains, we could close the gap on those essential nutrients.

Here’s how:  Roast vegetables and top with parmesan cheese, whirl frozen berries in a blender with delicious yogurt or milk or dig your fork into a crisp vegetable salad topped with protein such as beans and cheese. Use MyPlate as an eating guide and make sure you have all of the food groups represented at meal time.

Bring Dinner Back to the Kitchen
Spending less time in the drive-thru and more time in the kitchen can have a big impact on your health and waistline. Research shows people who cook more meals at home eat more vitamins and minerals and consume fewer calories. Upgrade your recipes with simple substitutions to make home-cooked meals even healthier.

For example, replace white bread and pasta with whole-wheat varieties, or use whole-grain flour when baking. Swap high-calorie ingredients such as mayonnaise and sour cream with Greek yogurt. Not only will this switch decrease total fat and calories, but it will also provide additional nutrients. Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and protein, and it helps boost immunity with probiotics.

Pay Attention to Portions
How much we eat is just as important as what we eat. Even when filling a plate with healthier foods, portions do matter. For adults, MyPlate recommends 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of vegetables, 6-8 ounces of grains, 5-6 ounces of protein and 3 cups of dairy each day.

Remember, fruits, vegetables and whole grains provide fiber that will keep you satisfied longer. Dairy foods are the primary source of calcium in American diets and can build stronger bones and teeth.  Additionally, dairy foods contain high-quality, complete protein.  From helping curb hunger to helping fuel lean muscles, diets higher in protein can help power your path to health and wellness.

Aim for Activity
Physical activity can do more than help you maintain a healthy weight. It also lowers cholesterol and blood pressure and helps decrease depression. The Surgeon General recommends that adults engage in moderate-intensity activity for at least 2.5 hours per week.

Find activities that you enjoy, and try to be physically active most days of the week. Remember to incorporate exercise into your day in different ways: take the stairs instead of the elevator, or rake the yard instead of using the leaf blower. Exercising with friends and family can be a great way to stay healthy and have fun, too.

 

Buxenbaum, MPH, RD, LDN, assistant director of nutrition affairs of the Southeast United Dairy Industry Association, Inc., can be reached at 800-343-4693 or lbuxenbaum@sedairy.org