National Nutrition Month: Be a Work in Progress
Lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight. That’s why the this year’s National Nutrition Month® theme, Put Your Best Fork Forward, encourages a shift toward lasting healthy eating habits through bite-sized steps, now and over time.
In other words: Be a work in progress.
Break long-term goals into smaller, more manageable changes to implement each day, week, month — whatever works. Sometimes you’ll go a mile, sometimes just a step, and both are okay! As you move forward, these incremental shifts in the right direction add up to help keep you happy and healthy for the long-haul.
The updated 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends whole grains over refined grains, more protein from seafood and plant sources (e.g., beans + legumes, tofu, nuts + seeds), limiting sodium through fewer salty processed foods + reaching for salt-free seasonings (e.g., herbs, spices, citrus + vinegar), plus fewer calories from added sugars and saturated fats + trans fats.
Created to help reduce the risk of preventable, lifestyle-related chronic diseases — from heart disease and stroke, to type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers — eating a variety of healthful foods from and within all food groups is at the heart of these guidelines.
To that and the above, please allow me to emphasize and encourage the following:
Nail portions and balance with backwards plating. Many of us dish up meals onto large plates beginning with too-generous portions of carbs + protein, leaving little room for veg or fruit. My advice is to flip the script: First, fill half of your (smaller, salad-sized) plate with non-starchy veg + fruit. Next, add one-quarter protein (animal- or plant-based). Last, the remaining one-quarter goes to whole grains and/or starchy veg, like squash, corn, potatoes or peas.
Make healthy eating synonymous with eating well. Embrace a spirit of adventure and creativity in the kitchen. Explore new foods, new recipes, new cuisines, new cooking techniques, as well as new markets or local growers, but also heed personal and cultural preferences, to strike a balance between healthy + delicious. If you don’t already, consider planning more meals at home.
But remember that meals and snacks are as much about pleasure as they are about nourishment. Savor the flavor of eating right by slowing down to appreciate each forkful. Accept that some days you’ll enjoy repurposed leftovers in the company of your cat on the floor; some days a perfectly balanced, beautiful, locally-sourced salad at the table with your loves; and other days a friends night out with too many slices of pizza, beers + truly indulgent desserts — it’s about your entire diet; not one food, meal, even day.
Have littles around? They never stop watching and learning. Model healthful eating habits by offering a variety of nutritious options from all food groups, involve kids in age-appropriate tasks in the kitchen (+ garden), talk positively about healthful foods and your bodies, and enjoy regular meals together at the table as often as possible.
And though nutrition is at its core, make exercise a priority. Provide (or schedule in) opportunities to be active most or all days of the week, and encourage children, nieces, nephews or grandchildren to play fun, physical activities daily.
To make healthful changes to your eating (and exercise) habits that are enjoyable and can be maintained for a lifetime, it’s important to be a work in progress + always try to put your best fork forward. Start with realistic goals in mind, start gradually, but most importantly, just start!
Cheers to your health and wellness, Heather
Tell me… How do you put your best fork forward? Any other advice to add?
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p.s. I love hearing from you! Check back if you ask a question, because I’ll answer it here.
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