March is National Nutrition Month, and this year’s theme from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is “Go Further with Food!”
Food is a central part of every culture, and rightly so. Food is necessary to live, but it can also equip you to go even further and live life to the fullest.
When our bodies have the nutrients they need, like vitamins, minerals and fiber — and not too much fat, salt and sugar — we feel better and can enjoy life more.
Choosing more nutrient-dense foods is a first step to going further with food. Nutrient-dense foods have more nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, for the amount of energy (calories) that they contain.
Examples of such foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, low-fat dairy and lean meats.
Try whole grain toast topped with sliced avocado and sprinkled with black pepper instead of buttered white toast for breakfast. Instead of ice cream for dessert, try a yogurt parfait made with reduced fat plain yogurt and topped with fresh or frozen fruit. The possible meals and snacks that you can make with nutrient-dense foods are endless.
Another way to go further with food is to plan ahead. Planning the week’s menu ahead of time takes a little extra effort initially but will ensure that you and your family are properly fueled with nutrient-dense foods throughout the week. Having meals and snacks prepared ahead of time will prevent skipping meals or choosing quick, less nutritious alternatives. Plus, you limit how much you have to think about what to eat for each meal throughout the week.
Prepare overnight oats made with low-fat dairy and topped with fruit to have a nutritious, ready-to-eat breakfast available on busy mornings. Making your oats just one or two days ahead of time will ensure that your breakfast is both quick and delicious (not soggy). Chop vegetables on the weekend to put in salads and stir-fries later in the week.
Pre-pack snacks like a quarter-cup of apricots, dry-roasted unsalted peanuts, veggies or hummus for work, sports or other after-school activities so you don’t hit the vending machine. Make sauces such as spaghetti sauce or even homemade salad dressings ahead of time to reduce prep time even more during the week. Planning and preparing nutritious meals and snacks ahead of time will save time later in the week and ensure that you can perform at your very best in these activities.
Finally, going further with food includes maximizing your food budget. Take advantage of nutritious foods that are less expensive, such as frozen vegetables and fruits, dried beans and peas, no-salt-added or low sodium canned vegetables and inexpensive whole grains such as brown rice and rolled oats.
Purchasing some of your produce in these less perishable forms can also help decrease food waste of fresh foods that spoil quickly, furthering your food budget more.
Don’t underestimate the power of food. Put these tips into practice to go further with food starting this month.
Your local Extension office is an excellent resource for learning more about how to live a healthier lifestyle and prevent or manage chronic disease. Check out the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences Extension website at www.fcs.uga.edu/extension to learn more about food and health. Or contact your local Extension agent, Carin Booth, at 770-535-8293. Upcoming programs include Cancer Prevention Cooking School from 1-3 p.m. April 5.
Carin Booth is the family and consumer sciences agent at the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Office in Hall County. She can be reached at 770-535-8293 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column publishes monthly.