5 Simple Steps to March into Better Habits

Wow. It’s March already. And you know what that means? Registered Dietitians are all hopped up on nutrition tips, now more than ever!

It’s National Nutrition Month®!

via GIPHY

Every year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics uses the month of March as an additional platform to encourage everyone to eat a healthier diet.

“The theme for 2017 is “Put Your Best Fork Forward”, which acts as a reminder that each bite counts. Making just small shifts in our food choices, can add up over time.”

There is so much conflicting information out there about nutrition. What should I eat? Does all of my food have to be “natural”? Should I avoid dairy or wheat? What’s the difference between organic versus other vegetables? 

The bottom line is this: Make small changes every day that will improve your diet. Everyone has different food preferences, and one person may be intolerant to different foods or ingredients, while another is not. So don’t think “Oh, I have to stop drinking milk because Gwyneth Paltrow says it’s bad for the environment”. Many people have no issues with dairy, and benefit from it’s fantastic nutrition profile (and ask a farmer, or follow a dietitian for nutrition advice, not Gwyneth or any other celebrity).

Here are my five simple tips to help you kick off the month of March:

1. Eat more vegetables.

Yes, vegetables can take a bit of work to include into your diet, but it’s time well spent. You must consider food prep time as a valued investment in your health! Keep raw veggies cut in the refrigerator so you have easy access to them for a snack. I keep canned and frozen vegetables on hand as quick options too. Cook fresh veggies differently – Roasting or grilling vegetables makes them more tasty. Add spinach or kale to your sandwiches or scrambled eggs. Try a vegetarian dish once a week for lunch or dinner. There are so many resources for vegetarian meals that are just an Internet search away. It could be vegan, or incorporate dairy and eggs (lacto-ovo). Look for recipes that include vegetables you already like.

2. Eat more fresh fruit.

Shop for sales and BOGO (buy one, get one free). Enjoy a piece of fruit every morning and afternoon as a snack. Enjoy fresh, or canned (packed in its own juice without sugar added). Pack fruit in both your lunch, and your child’s lunchbox.

3. Enjoy smaller portions of lean beef, pork, and poultry.

Meat lovers don’t have to sulk. These foods provide protein, iron, zinc and other important minerals, but strive to make half of your plate vegetables and whole grains. It’s okay to enjoy a delicious steak, just balance it with a nice vegetable side dish and salad (I’ll be blogging this month for the Northeast Beef Initiative).

4. Eat less sweets.

Pastry is my weakness. One of my favorite things is a hot cup of coffee and a really good pastry. But pastries, desserts, cookies, and coffee cakes are calorie dense. As you age, it’s pretty hard to fit them in on a regular basis without weight gain. Consider limiting sweets to home-baked, and choose daily options such as flavored Greek yogurt and fresh fruit to satisfy your sweet craving.

5. Work on Behaviors

Don’t be surprised if it takes a few days, or up to a week, to break a bad habit and start a healthier one. Sometimes your routine becomes so engrained, that you aren’t even sure why you are eating something. Your environment impacts your behaviors too.

  • If sweets are an issue at home or work, remove the candy dish, or other temptation from sight.
  • Have you gotten into the habit of eating on the couch, at your desk, or in the car? Make an effort to eat at the kitchen breakfast counter or table, or at a table in your break room at lunch.
  • Put a fresh fruit bowl on the counter in your kitchen, or at work.
  • Prepping your fruits and vegetables ahead (washed and cut) makes eating them easier to grab from the refrigerator.
  • Portion out “smoothie bags” (sandwich bag filled with berries, cut melon, chopped spinach) and store in the refrigerator so you can quickly grab them, dump into blender, add yogurt and ice, and whip something healthy up for breakfast or a snack on the run.

Change it up, and one day at a time, you’ll get used to your new food choice or daily habit.

 

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