National Nutrition Month ® - Put Your Best Fork Forward

Janelle Campbell MS, RD, CDE
Marcus Daly Food and Nutrition Services
1200 Westwood Drive
Hamilton, MT 59840


National Nutrition Month ® - Put Your Best Fork Forward
We are well into the New Year and that resolution you made in January probably faded like a distant memory. Fortunately, you can celebrate March, because it's National Nutrition Month®. You can turn that resolution into a healthy lifestyle and, "Put Your Best Fork Forward." That's this year's National Nutrition Month® theme, and with that in mind, make small changes one forkful at a time.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), obesity is a common, serious and costly disease. The CDC estimates more than one-third of U.S. adults have obesity. Unfortunately, obese adults are at increased risk for preventable diseases such as: heart disease; type 2 diabetes; stroke; and, certain types of cancer. Also, obese individuals spend 42 percent more on direct healthcare costs than adults who are a healthy weight. The CDC estimates that obesity cost the U.S. approximately $147 billion in medical expenses in 2008. The good news is you can make dietary and lifestyle changes to reduce health risks and reduce medical costs associated with obesity.

Because eating patterns are all individual, first assess what you are doing by maintaining a food and physical activity log. Before you stab that unsuspecting morsel on your plate, make every bite count. Look at areas in your daily eating plan that you could improve such as: increasing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein; and, low fat dairy products. Include daily physical activity and this will help you manage stress. When shopping and running errands, park farther away so you walk more. If taking stairs is a possibility, choose that option.

If your food log indicates you are dining out frequently, try cooking at home. By doing so, you have more control of how food is prepared. Selecting healthy recipes and cooking methods so you can improve your diet. Try using smaller plates to manage portion sizes. Keep healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables available. Avoid mindless eating in front of the television or other electronic devices. Swap high calorie beverages for water or lower calorie beverages that contain vitamin and nutrients. Small changes yield big rewards.

If you dine out, decrease your portion sizes and take home leftovers. When you place your order, ask for a "to go" box. Before you start eating, split your meal in half. By doing this, you've essentially placed this "out of sight, out of mind" and you're controlling your portions. Also, you're minimizing the temptation for overindulging.

Consider ordering an appetizer as your main course. If you are dining with someone, order one entrée and share. Prior to ordering, review the menu for a heart healthy option and inquire about nutrition information. Ask your server how food is prepared and have sauces or dressing on the side. Avoid having food salted or fried. The more you have a say in how food is prepared, the healthier your options.

Consider your current lifestyle and make healthy food choices: select appropriate portion sizes; and, include regular physical activity in your day. Often, it feels like life is hectic and meals are "grab and go." Portions are large and time is limited. Slow down and eat smaller amounts of good, wholesome and healthy foods. To help slow down your eating pace, place your fork down between bites. Another strategy is to eat with your non-dominant hand. Practice mindfulness at meals to enjoy and savor your food.

Balance is the key for a healthy eating plan.

Portion sizes don't need to be complicated. Perhaps you're struggling with eating too much at meals. If you are using a smaller plate, remember not to refill that plate as this defeats the purpose. Use your hand as a guide for portion control. In general the following applies: tight fist = ½ cup; handful = 1 cup; palm = 3 oz.; thumb = 2 Tbs; and, thumb tip = 1 tsp. Try to keep your portions under control and eat regularly scheduled meals and snacks.

Every five years the USDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services update the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. As per the USDA and the USDHHHS, the Dietary Guidelines provide evidence-based food and beverage recommendations for Americans age 2 and older. In January 2016, the 2015-2020 guidelines were released. These guidelines provide examples of three eating patterns: Healthy U.S. Style; Healthy Mediterranean; and, Healthy Vegetarian. The goals of these guidelines are to promote health; prevent chronic disease; and, assist people in maintaining a healthy weight.

Detailed information about the guidelines is located at: health.gov.

In addition to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, there are other government resources available to assist you in reaching your healthy eating, exercise and weight goals. Explore the following sites to help you: choosemyplate.gov and supertracker.usda.gov.

A healthy eating plan includes foods containing a variety of colors, textures and flavors that meet your individual needs. You're never too old to try something new. If you have questions about your diet/eating plan, speak to your health care provider and visit with Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist. More information may be found from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at: eatright.org. With just a few changes, your New Year's resolution that was a distant memory is now your reality. "Put Your Best Fork Forward" and embrace National Nutrition Month®.

Questions and or comments regarding this week's health column please contact, Janelle Campbell MS, RD, CDE at Marcus Daly Food and Nutrition Services, a service of Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital, 1200 Westwood Drive, Hamilton, MT 59840.

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