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Daily Tips for Eating Right During National Nutrition Month

Did you know that March is National Nutrition Month?

National Nutrition Month is an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to “focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.”

There’s plenty of information available to honor the month, from the National Education Association’s list of 10 free things for National Nutrition Month to the Partnership for Food Safety Education’s four pointers to enjoy fresh foods at home while taking steps to protect yourself from foodborne illness.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

 And, in recognition of this year’s theme, “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right,” here are 31 tips from the American Heart Association on how to help your family eat right:

  1. Vegetables and fruits are loaded with nutrients and low in calories. They contain fiber and water, which help you feel full. Enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack. Fresh, frozen or canned can all be healthy choices.

  2. Whole grains are generally a good source of dietary fiber. Eat more whole-grain foods, such as whole-wheat bread, rye bread, brown rice, popcorn, oatmeal and whole-grain cereal.

  3. Know your fats! Some are better for you than others. Use liquid vegetable oils such as canola, corn, olive, safflower, sesame and sunflower oils in place of solid fats whenever possible.

  4. Help your children develop healthy habits early in life that will bring lifelong benefits. Be a good role model, make it fun and involve the whole family in lifestyle changes.

  5. Chicken, fish and beans are good sources of protein. Use lean cuts and remove skin from poultry.

  6. Reading food labels can help you make better choices. Learn what information to look for—for example, you want to limit sodium, saturated fat and trans fat but get more beneficial nutrients like dietary fiber.

  7. When you cook at home you have more control over ingredients, so aim to cook at home more often than eating out. Get recipes and tips here.

  8. For snack time, keep fresh fruit and pre-chopped or no-chop veggies (such as baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and sugar snap peas) on hand, as well as single-serve containers of raisins or applesauce. Your family is more likely to grab fruits and veggies over other items if they’re readily available.

  9. Include a serving of fruit at each meal, and try to fill half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner.

  10. Enjoy fish high in omega-3 fatty acids at least twice a week. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout and albacore tuna are good choices.

  11. A small handful of nuts or seeds can be a satisfying and healthy snack. Look for unsalted nuts or those with no more than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving size.

  12. Join the gardening movement! Try growing fruits and veggies in your own garden. Even the smallest spaces have room for a container garden. Kids are more likely to try something they’ve grown themselves. Learn about teaching gardens.

  13. Use fresh or dried herbs and spices when cooking. At the table, use salt-free seasoning blends instead of salt. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime to add flavor to fish and vegetables.

  14. Try sparkling water, unsweetened tea or sugar-free beverages instead of sugar-sweetened soda or tea. Add lemon, lime or berries to beverages for extra flavor. 

  15. Enjoy fruit for dessert most days and limit traditional desserts to special occasions.

  16. Let our heart be your guide when grocery shopping. Look for foods with the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark to make smarter food choices. 

  17. Instead of frying foods—which adds excess fats and calories—use cooking methods that add little or no fat, like roasting, grilling, baking or steaming. 

  18. Aim to eat less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. As you take steps to reduce sodium gradually, you’ll actually start to appreciate foods for their true flavor. Over time, your taste buds will adjust to less salt and you’ll look forward to how food really tastes! 

  19. Make it fun for kids to try new fruits and veggies. Let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable in the grocery store each week, and figure out together how to cook or prepare it. You might end up expanding your own palate as well.

  20. Schedule time each week to plan healthy meals. Keep your recipes, grocery list and coupons in the same place to make planning easier. 

  21. Serving size does not always equal portion size. Check the serving size and servings per container because what might seem like a typical portion could actually equal two or more servings. That means double the calories, sodium, fat and cholesterol.

  22. Get your kids in the kitchen! Kids will be more excited about cooking and eating healthy foods when they’ve been involved. Teach kitchen basics by giving family members age-appropriate tasks. Keep a step-stool in the kitchen to make it easier for little ones to help. 

  23. Using frozen fish and meats can make meal planning quick and easy. Canned tuna is a great source of protein; often you can save money by buying several cans. Choose the leanest meats and skinless chicken.

  24. Try a meatless meal each week. Think vegetable lasagna or a portabella mushroom burger. Vegetables and beans typically are great sources of fiber. They’re often more affordable and may require less work to prepare than meats or seafood.

  25. Package your own healthy snacks. Put cut-up veggies and fruits in portion-sized containers for easy, healthy snacking on the go.

  26. Be an advocate for healthier kids! Insist on good food choices at school and childcare. Make sure your children’s healthcare providers are monitoring cardiovascular disease indicators like BMI (body mass index), blood pressure and cholesterol. Contact public officials and make your voice heard.

  27. Eating healthy on a budget can seem difficult, but it can be done! Many fruits, vegetables and legumes (beans and peas) cost less than $1 per serving.

  28. Watch out for added sugars. They add extra calories but no helpful nutrients. Sugar-sweetened beverages and soft drinks are the number one source of added sugars for most of us. Limit them to special occasions.

  29. Nearly 1 in 3 kids and teens in the U.S. are overweight or obese. It’s important for parents and coaches to make sure kids have access to healthier foods—including post-game team snacks. All too often, kids are “rewarded” after healthy physical activity with unhealthy foods and sugary full-calorie drinks. Guide your team’s parents and coaches to healthier treats like 100 percent fruit juice, low-fat yogurt, fresh or dried fruit and veggies, and unsalted nuts and seeds.

  30. Eat the rainbow: A fun and tasty way to make sure your family is eating a good variety of fruits and vegetables is to eat as many different colors as you can each day. 

  31. Try to eat at least 25 g of fiber each day. Fiber can help lower cholesterol, control blood sugar and reduce the risk of heart disease. Good sources of fiber include beans, peas, raspberries, unpeeled apples and whole-grain pastas, breads, rice and cereals.

What are some of the pointers you follow to make informed food choices and to eat well?

Visit EcoWatch’s TIPS and HEALTH pages for more related news on this topic.

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