Posted on Mar. 16, 2015 (
With the theme “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle,” March is National Nutrition Month. Let’s celebrate!
Making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits are the core goals of the month.
Starting is the hardest part, but it only takes a small step. Simply choose and act on one of my five tips below, build momentum gradually and incorporate further tips as you reach your initial goals.
1. Make a plan
One of the most important tools in my kitchen is my menu plan.
I write a plan for one full week of meals at a time, simultaneously making a grocery list. It helps cut down on food waste, because I only buy the ingredients I need.
Next, I hang the menu plan inside one of my kitchen cupboards, at eye level so everyone can see it.
It’s almost like a lesson plan for a substitute teacher — no matter if my husband is cooking while I’m at work or my mom is cooking during a visit to see the grandkids, the plan is ready to direct the next meal.
2. Prepare fruit and vegetables
No one likes to open the fridge and find no healthy food that is quick and easy to grab. It's so uninspiring!
Case in point: In my fridge sits a whole bag of carrots, unopened for don’t ask me how long because I failed to wash and cut them.
On the other hand, my six-year-old nearly single handedly ate a container of green and yellow bell peppers recently because I took the time to prepare them into strips.
You get the point.
Prepping vegetables — and fruit — as soon as I return from the grocery story increases my family consumption of these healthy foods in addition to saving time.
3. Build your plate thoughtfully
Still on the topic of fruit and vegetables, why do we need to eat them?
The reasons are many.
First, they are excellent sources of fiber, which is essential for healthy digestion and gives a sense of fullness that helps you resist overeating.
Next, fruits and vegetables are very good sources of vitamins C and A. Vitamin C enhances iron absorption and contributes to healthy teeth and gums; Vitamin A contributes to healthy eyes and skin.
A good rule of thumb is to first fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, avoiding over-sized portions of other food types.
4. Think before you drink
We lose water from our bodies every day through sweat, breath and urination; it’s essential to replenish it by consuming at least eight, eight-ounce glasses of fluid a day.
Choosing plain water helps eliminate extra calories and weight gain.
If you find plain water boring, try making your own spa water: Add sliced cucumbers, oranges or lemons to a glass (or pitcher) of ice water for a fresh taste.
Still find it hard to drink water? Add a straw and you might be surprised at how fast you empty your glass!
5. Move your body
According to the American Heart Association, adults need at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity five days per week for overall heart health.
My favorite, no-cost aerobic activities are walking, running, hiking and dancing.
I recommend you use a device to monitor your progress. I recently started running and was elated when my fitness app announced mid-run that I had beaten my previous time.
Exercise is key to maintaining a healthy weight because it balances the calories you eat with the calories you burn.
Joanna Patraw, RD, CD, IBCLC, is a nutritionist and clinical dietitian with MultiCare’s Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Services program. She is committed to helping families make informed decisions that support their health. More stories by this author