March is National Nutrition Month and what better way to celebrate than with a plateful of colors? The American Dietetic Association’s theme for the 2011 National Nutrition Month is “eat right with color” to emphasize the importance of choosing a variety of foods to promote optimal health. Since different colors of food contain different types of nutrients, incorporating a variety colors provides a wide range of nutrients that our bodies need to function at their best.
Other guidelines for healthy eating include:
Enjoy 2-3 servings of fruit every day. These provide many vitamins and minerals in the form of phytochemicals along with fiber. Eat the skins when you can! Fresh fruits make a great snack food, frozen fruits add thickness to homemade smoothies, and fruits can be pureed to use in place of fats in baking.
Sneak in 5-7 servings of vegetables every day. It’s important to eat vegetables from all five categories – dark green, orange/deep yellow, starchy, legumes (peas and beans), and others such as onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, okra, green beans, and cucumbers. Vegetables provide many nutrients and fiber. Pile vegetables on sandwiches, add to sauces and frozen entrees, and puree to add to soups. Just be sure to not add on calorie-laden sauces!
Aim for making half of your grain selections whole. Whole grains provide fiber and carbohydrates necessary for energy and brain power. Replace processed, refined, white products with whole grain products when choosing rice, pasta, and bread. Not all brands taste the same, so don’t give up if you don’t like the first one you try.
Lean meats and dairy are good choices for protein. Proteins are the building blocks of our bodies; they are the basis for our enzymes and hormones and build muscle that enables us to move. Proteins are typically high in fat. The healthest options are to choose lean cuts of meat, to remove visible fat and grease when cooking, and to look for low-fat or non-fat dairy products.
Last but not least are the fats. Fats are a major component of our cell membranes, they provide padding for our internal organs, and they help with absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins. Just be sure to choose the healthier mono- and poly-unsaturated fats found in avocado, almonds, walnuts, fatty fish, and canola, safflower, or olive oils.
Fill your plate with a variety of colors while following the above guidelines and you are taking a big step towards good health.
By the way... March 9th is Registered Dietitian Day. Have you hugged your RD lately?