The month of March is National Nutrition Month. The awareness and education campaign is sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (known previously as the American Dietetic Association). Its purpose is to promote good nutrition by spreading awareness and education about nutritional choices, and to challenge people to make the healthiest food choices they can, not just during the month of March, but all year round. As you know, good nutrition is an important concern for all parents. The theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month is “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day”, and it focuses on the idea that people from all cultural backgrounds can make good food choices while eating the types of food they enjoy the most. Here’s a few ways that you can emphasize healthy eating with your families this month.
- MyPlate. Remember the Food Pyramid? Forget about it. The USDA has tossed the food pyramid model and has designed a plate graphic to represent the types of meals that we should be eating. The plate graphic demonstrates that half the foods in each meal should be fruits and vegetables. The other half the plate is taken up by grains and proteins, with the grains portion being slightly larger than the proteins. The graphic also portrays a small serving of dairy on the side. When planning meals, keep in mind that at least half the grains should be whole grains, and that fat-free or 1% milk is preferable to whole milk.
- Ethnic Foods. With the “Your Way, Every Day” part of this year’s theme in mind, you can choose foods from your own ethnic background, or learn to cook other ethnic foods that your family will enjoy, that are in keeping with the MyPlate recommendations. Some examples: For a Chinese dish, make stir fried chicken and vegetables with brown rice and a side dish of lychee fruit. For a healthy Italian meal, try minestrone soup and gnocchi with chopped vegetables and tomato sauce. Want to try Greek? Serve Tzatziki sauce on pita sandwiches with vegetables and dolmas: grape leaves stuffed with ground meat, vegetables, brown rice, and dried fruit.
- Add Color. “Eat Right With Color” was actually last year’s nutrition month theme, but adding bright colors is always a great way to get kids interested in healthy food. Add dried cranberries to oatmeal, top a baked potato with low-fat cheese and mild salsa, or make snack kabobs with cubes of low-fat cheese and grapes on pretzel sticks. There are lots of fun and healthy ways to dress up healthy food to make it more visually appealing to kids. And things that look fun to eat taste good!
Involve your kids in the choosing and preparing of food, and make a special point of praising and encouraging their healthy choices this month. You’ll be setting them up for good food habits that will last a lifetime.