Making Nutrition Number One in your Life
How's your diet? Did you resolve to eat healthier and fitter this year?
Have you managed to stick with it?
Whatever your answers, there's a great reason right now to focus on what
you eat: March is National Nutrition Month.
Organized each year since 1973 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,
the event emphasizes the importance of choosing the right foods and
developing good eating and exercise habits.
Among other messages, the Academy -- the world's largest organization of
food and nutritional professionals -- wants us to learn which foods are
good for health, control the amount we eat, make food safety part of our
everyday routine, and reduce food waste.
"You don't have to forgo your favorite dishes in your quest for more
healthful meals," LA-based nutritionist Cordialis Msora-Kasago tells us.
"Consider swapping less healthful ingredients with more nutritious
For example, she suggests, we can:
- Use healthier cooking options like canola, olive or peanut oil in place
of solid fats.
- If you're making mac and cheese, consider reduced-fat cheese and low-fat
- Desserts can be sweetened with fruit puree or apple sauce instead of
- Replace white flour with whole wheat flour in your muffins.
- Eat brown rice instead of white.
- In potato salad, replace some of the mayo with non-fat Greek yogurt.
"Simple swaps are key to making dishes healthier without sacrificing
flavor," she explains.
So, for instance, you might experiment with spices like smoked paprika,
using salt-free herb blends, or adding apple cider or rice vinegar to your
greens. And try marinating chicken in rosemary and lemon juice before
But note that we all have different tastes and preferences when it comes to
choosing our food, especially here in Southern California with our wide
"Eating right isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor," says Msora-Kasago.
"Healthy eating styles can be adapted to fit the foods of all cultures."
What's important, however, say nutritionists, is that you prepare balanced
meals -- that is, items drawn from all the major food groups. These include
lean proteins, vegetables, whole grains and fruits.
To help get you started, the Academy lists some nutritious recipes here:
. You'll find plenty more in an online search.
Safety in the Kitchen
Food and kitchen safety are equally important for a nutritious diet. There
are four golden rules the Academy wants us to observe when preparing food:
1. Keep it Clean
. You should always wash your hands, using warm, soapy water for at least
20 seconds, both before and after handling food, especially raw meat and
poultry. You should wash fruits and vegetables before preparing but not
meat or poultry.
Ensure too that countertops are clean before you start, again using hot
soapy water, with paper towels or disinfectant wipes. DON'T use washcloths
or sponges, which can harbor bacteria.
2. Cook it Right.
Cooking meat calls for precision, using a food thermometer to ensure the
internal temperature is right. Recommended minimum temperatures vary between about 145 and 165 degrees. Here's a government table that lists all
Push the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, without it
touching bones or the bottom part of the pan and leave it there until the
gauge has stopped rising. Don’t forget to clean the thermometer after
3. Keep it Hot or Cold.
Once the temperature is right, don’t let the food cool down too much, until
it's lukewarm, because that's when bacteria and microbes start to multiply.
Put any unserved, cooked foods in the refrigerator within two hours,
preferably one hour.
Frozen food should never be left on a countertop to thaw. Again, that's an
invitation to bacteria to get to work. Ideally, thaw it overnight in the
refrigerator. If you're in a hurry, use the microwave or place in cold
4. Store it Right.
Do you just pop food in the refrigerator without a thought about where and
how it's stored? If so, you could be taking a big risk. Raw meats and
poultry should be at the bottom to avoid drips onto other food, but
ideally, they should be stored in a container.
Eating the right food and practicing kitchen safety are all very well, but
there's a third important component to good nutrition: keeping your body
healthy through regular exercise.
The National Academy suggests we balance our good foods with physical
activity most days of the week.
The US Department of Health and Human Services, for example, says adults
should exercise moderately for at least 150 minutes a week, with muscle
strengthening activities on at least two days.
Robert Foroutan, a spokesman for the Academy, explains: "Look into
incorporating physical activity into your daily routine. Walk to work or
take a walk during your lunch hour. Do something physical during the
weekend, such as playing basketball with your kids or going dancing with
your friends. The goal is to get moving; every little bit helps."
Of course, healthy eating should be a year-round goal for all of us but
National Nutrition Month gives us the chance to learn more about how to
And even though we're part-way through the month, there's still time to get
involved by spreading the word or inviting a nutritionist to speak at club
and other social events -- and that can be at any time, not just in March.
In the same way, at schools, teachers might consider asking a nutrition
question of the day, inviting students to bring in empty product packaging
as a source of discussion, or even getting them to vote on their favorite
fruits and veggies.
In the workplace, perhaps organize a healthy recipe competition among
employees, run a series of fitness sessions or host a lunch-and-learn
session featuring a professional nutritionist.
To track down a qualified Southern California Academy nutritionist or
dietician, visit www.dietician.org
You can also learn more about National Nutrition Month by visiting the
Academy-run website at eatright.org or by following the group on Facebook:
A nutritious diet can be key to a long and healthy life -- and that's
certainly what we wish all of our clients and other readers!