Every March, we celebrate National Nutrition Month®, and this year, we’re encouraging you to “Go Further with Food.” It’s important to fuel your body well throughout the day and provide the necessary energy and nutrients it needs. We live in a diet-heavy culture that promotes what you need to avoid and “calories” has now become a dirty word. However, calories is simply synonymous with energy. And instead of focusing on what you need to avoid, how about focusing on how food takes care of you(?).
With a healthy diet, your body can function at its best which means you can function at your best. Whether this means being able to push yourself physically during exercise, performing well at work, or having adequate energy to keep up with your kids throughout the day.
In order to “go further with food,” it’s important to BE PREPARED. This is, quite often, one of the main skills I work on with my clients. Adequate planning allows you to respond to hunger cues when you notice them. If you ignore hunger cues, they simply build into ravenous hunger making portion control and healthy eating decisions much more challenging. Planning well allows you to be more intentional about your foods, making it easier to meet your nutrient needs, as well. You can plan for foods full of the essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (beneficial compounds we get from food) that are satisfying and full of flavor.
You can also reduce food waste with adequate planning. As you start your planning for the week, start by looking in your refrigerator and your pantry. Find out what you already have available and build your meals from there. I make homemade pizza most Friday nights as my “kitchen sink” meal…..utilizing leftover vegetables and protein sources from the week. Another easy idea is incorporating your leftovers into omelets – a healthy and quick breakfast meal for dinner. Don’t forget to keep food safety in mind! Leftovers can be safely kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days in sealed containers.
Here are some additional planning tips:
- Cook large portions of your meat to utilize for different meals throughout the week. Think a chicken, rice and vegetable meal one evening followed by chicken noodle soup on another.
- Start with theme nights for planning. Maybe Mexican food one night, Meatless Mondays, or Friday night pizza night (like our Yingling household).
- If you feel overwhelmed by planning an entire week, start with planning for 2-3 nights a week. I’ve had many successful clients plan for 2-3 nights at a time and then plan for the second half of the week.
- Keep some essentials in the freezer. One of my favorite “tools” for meal preparation is having a large bag of vegetables in our freezer. Freezing helps to maintain the nutrient value of your fruits and vegetables so you’ll get a lot of “bang for your buck” nutritionally.
- Have snack foods readily available where you spend a lot of your time. If you are a “taxi driver” for your children, keep nuts, dried fruit, and nutritious bars available in the car that won’t spoil. At your place of work, stock your fridge with snack items like string cheese, yogurt, grapes, carrot sticks, celery, peanut butter and even individual milk cartons.
With adequate planning you can fuel your body AND your brain well! You’ll reduce your food waste which is beneficial to your budget. Enjoy this month of going “further with food!”