Nan Jensen, Extension Agent, Pinellas County Extension
March is the month for putting on the green for St. Patrick’s Day, welcoming the warmer weather of spring and celebrating National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme “From the ground up.” reminds everyone that an easy way to focus on eating better is to start with the basics: build your nutritional health from the ground up. The idea is to build a good foundation and gradually work your way toward better health. Small lasting changes are better than those that are too general and unrealistic.
Make it nutrient rich - Focus on foods that give you the most nutrients for the calories. Think about the vibrant colors of the rainbow when you choose fruits and vegetables. Fresh, frozen or canned without the sugar and salt are all great choices. Whole grains and fiber-rich foods like oatmeal, whole grain breads and beans are rich in the nutrients we need to support good health. Fat free milk and lean meats, chicken and fish can figure into your plan as well. The less processed the better.
Buy local - Try if you can to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and other food items through local farmer’s markets and community-supported agriculture opportunities through near-by farmers. Purchasing locally helps support the local economy, lets you take advantage of the freshest produce since the travel time from the field is shorter and helps keep the environment healthier too.
Track your choices - Tracking your calorie and nutrient intake is as easy as going to http://www.mypyramid.gov/ and entering your age, height, weight, gender, and physical activity level into the appropriate boxes. You will receive a recommended plan including the number of servings from each of the five food groups and see how your food intake compares to what you should be eating.
Enjoy family meals - Shared family meals are a great way to teach your kids about healthy eating. Research shows us that kids who eat regularly with their families are less likely to snack on unhealthy foods and more likely to eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
For more tips on building a healthy diet from the ground up, visit the American Dietetic Association Web site at eatright.org.