Article and audio introduction by Samantha Kennedy, Family and Consumer Sciences
March is National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme is “Eat Right, Bite by Bite.” This theme was chosen to remind people of some of the basic nutrition concepts that contribute to an overall healthy diet.
One of these basic concepts involves eating a variety of nutritious foods every day. Choose a selection of foods from each food group for a balance of vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients. Half of each meal should consist of fruits and vegetables. Focus on lowfat dairy and lean meats. Boost fiber intake with whole grains, including rice and pasta.
Be careful about beverages. Water is always an excellent choice and is a very important part of a healthy lifestyle. Sweetened beverages often add unnecessary sugar and calories to the diet. Fruit juice can count as a serving of fruit, but be sure to choose beverages that are 100% juice. Avoid fruit-flavored drinks such as fruit punch or powdered fruit drinks.
Read food labels. Each label contains a treasure trove of nutritional information, including number of calories and the amounts of sugar, sodium, cholesterol, protein, and vitamins and minerals per serving. Ingredients are listed in reverse order, meaning the most common ingredient is listed first. Whole grain foods should have whole grains listed first to be considered a good or excellent source of fiber.
Practice portion control. Avoid eating food, especially foods such as snacks, directly out of the package. Portion out a serving of the food onto a separate plate. This will help decrease the desire to overeat and will help decrease overall caloric intake. For meals, try to follow the portions suggested by MyPlate. (See https://www.choosemyplate.gov/myplate for more information.)
Savor every bite. It can be difficult to eat slowly when time is limited or when the feeling of hunger is overwhelming. However, taking the time to savor every bite not only improves overall enjoyment of a meal, but can actually help decrease overall consumption. There is a delay of about 20 minutes between when a meal is eaten and when a person feels full. Eating slowly can help people realize they are full and stop eating sooner.
Meal planning is also a good healthy nutrition practice. Taking the time to plan out meals allows people to choose balanced, healthy options and make a more informed choice about ingredients. When eating out, take the time to inquire about different options so healthier choices can be made. Portion out leftovers into single serving containers to use as quick lunch or dinner options on those especially busy days. Stock up on healthy snacks when traveling to avoid the pitfalls of easy access junk food choices on the road.
A huge part of healthy eating involves food safety. Keep hands, utensils, and food preparation surfaces clean and sanitized. Use a food thermometer to make sure foods are cooked to the proper internal temperature. Keep foods stored at the proper temperatures to help eliminate the growth of foodborne illness pathogens.
Eating healthy at home is not as hard as it may sound. An endless variety of healthy and delicious meals can be prepared quickly and easily with just a few basic cooking techniques. The Wakulla County Extension Service Family and Consumer Sciences program teaches people basic cooking techniques and meal planning concepts to help them create healthy and nutritious meals for themselves and their families.
To learn more about healthy eating and cooking, please contact Samantha Kennedy at (850) 926-3931.
Extension classes are open to everyone regardless of race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations.