You want to eat healthier – and if you’re like most of us, you figure the best way to proceed is to make radical changes in your eating habits. No more delicious anything, ever! Instead, you’re going to atone for your nutritional sins by eating nothing but steamed kale and boiled chicken for the rest of your life. Or maybe you’ll go vegan and skip the chicken.
While your enthusiasm and dedication are enviable, your plan is not workable. You’re going to get so bored by your limited eating plan that one night soon you won’t be able to resist the seductive lure of a dozen donuts. And a pizza … with extra cheese.
Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, you might want to focus on making small changes to your nutritional plan over time, rather than an immediate radical overhaul. For National Nutrition Month 2017, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics urges everyone to start small – one forkful at a time, and “Put Your Best Fork Forward.”
“How much we eat is as important as what we eat, which is why this year’s National Nutrition Month theme inspires us to start with small changes in our eating habits,” says registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson Kristi King.
Balance is key
The Academy also stresses the need to balance your food and beverage intake with your caloric needs, and focus on your long-term commitment to making better choices rather than “dieting” to get down to a specific weight or size. And you should eat food that you enjoy, in moderation, rather than punishing yourself with bland, sad little meals.
“It’s important to balance individualized eating plans that include a variety of your favorite, nutritious foods with physical activity most days of the week,” King says. “Registered dietitian nutritionists bring the knowledge and experience to help people find balance and create sustainable solutions that will keep them healthy throughout their entire lives.”
Choosing a variety of healthful foods across and within all food groups helps reduce the risk of preventable, lifestyle-related chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity, according to the Academy.
“Evidence shows that making dietary and lifestyle changes can prevent diseases before they occur,” says registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson Angel Planells. “During National Nutrition Month and beyond, make small, healthier food choices – one forkful at a time.”
Planells encourages everyone to eat more of these foods:
- Vegetables, including dark green, red and orange, beans, peas and others
- Fruits, especially whole fruits
- Whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy including milk, yogurt, cheese and fortified soy beverages
- Protein foods including seafood, lean meats, poultry, nuts, soy products, beans and peas
- Oils including canola, corn, olive, peanut, sunflower and soy
Good nutrition helps keeps your teeth and gums healthy too. Calcium-rich foods, such as low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese, fortified soy drinks and tofu, canned salmon, almonds and dark green leafy vegetables help promote strong teeth and bones. Phosphorus, found in eggs, fish, lean meat and dairy products, is good for strong teeth.
Vitamin C promotes gum health, so eat plenty of citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, potatoes and spinach. But do be aware that the acidic content of citrus fruits and drinks (ditto tomatoes) can weaken your tooth enamel. Limit your consumption of acidic foods, and when you do drink or eat acidy foods rinse your mouth with water and wait an hour or so before brushing so that you don’t permanently damage your dental enamel.
Need more info? The Academy’s website includes articles, recipes, videos and educational resources to spread the message of good nutrition and an overall healthy lifestyle for people of all ages, genders and backgrounds.