Its National Nutrition Month 2017® and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics wants to remind you to “put your best fork forward.” According to the Academy’s Website: this theme “serves as a reminder that each one of us holds the tool to make healthier food choices. Making small changes during National Nutrition Month® and over time, helps improve health now and into the future.”
Too often, the messages we receive related to food choices include what to stay away from, what to avoid, what diet to follow – basically providing us with “rules” that induce guilt whenever you break them. Most studies show that, over time, when you try to follow food rules, you will eventually tire of these rules and start eating the way you did prior to your diet. We also feel that if we’re going to make a healthy change, we need to do something revolutionary to our food intake.
With certain diseases and conditions, individuals do need significant changes to their diet (and in a hurry) to prevent disease complications. However, for most individuals, small changes at a time can yield huge benefits for long-term goals. Take weight loss, for example, we often recommend a 0.5-2 pound weight loss per week. Sure, it may not sound like a lot, but that can mean a weight loss of 26 – 104 pounds in a year! And weight loss of 5-10% body weight can significantly decrease chronic health risks.
Here are some great starting points to get you on your way to putting your best fork forward. First, try keeping a food journal. When you have to write your food and beverages down, there are a lot of things you’ll notice. Is your diet low in any food groups? Do you tend to graze throughout the day? Are you eating more than you thought? Do you eat out more than you realized? Secondly, review your behaviors and focus on a behavior you can change to promote healthy eating habits. Healthy habits can include more cooking at home and groceries in the house, more physical activity, and turning off the t.v. or other distractions while you eat.
Be sure to prioritize foods that are enjoyable and satisfying! If you’re going to make a long-term change, your nutrition strategy needs to become more and more practical while still being enjoyable. Taste is the number one reason for our food choices therefore the taste of your food cannot be ignored. Remember that fat carries flavor, too, so be intentional about your fat choices instead of getting caught up in the fat-free trap. More often choose foods high in unsaturated fatty acids such as nuts, nut butters, seeds, avocado and oils. There is value in choosing good tasting foods!
Here are some additional tools to get your started:
- If you’re interested in using a nutrition-related app for things like tracking your food intake or trying new recipes, Food and Nutrition Magazine provides a review of different apps: http://www.foodandnutrition.org/Nutrition-Apps/
- https://www.choosemyplate.gov/ provides information and tips on different food groups, including assistance on establishing portion sizes and a Supertracker for tracking your food and beverage intake
- Use the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website to learn about hot topics related to nutrition, learn new healthy recipes or find tips for creating a healthier diet: http://www.eatright.org/
- You can also meet with a registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to get individualized help with your nutrition plan