March is National Nutrition Month (NNM), and it’s coming up fast. It’s a perfect time. If you made a New Year’s resolution about eating healthy, NNM rolls up at just about the time most resolutions start to fade.
That’s why I make NNM a big GD deal in my household. It’s the perfect time to make sure we eat healthy for 31 — count ‘em — 31 days.
Not only that, but it’s a chance to show my family that good nutrition is good food. We can celebrate every day with new foods or new preparation methods that are healthy and maximize nutrients. They get used to the idea of eating a lot of vegetables, or being vegetarians one or two days a week.
By the time they’re used to healthy eating for a full month, it’s well on its way to becoming a habit. You may start out by thinking that quinoa-stuffed red peppers are unusual. But the time March 31 rolls around, it’s an old friend.
How to Make NNM a Big Deal
Some contributors to just average nutrition are a lack of familiarity with meal plans providing excellent nutrition and lack of time. NNM increases my entire family’s familiarity with how to plan and prepare a nutritious meal. It’s not time-consuming, either! We also learn that heavy nutrition doesn’t have to take a lot of time.
So here are my tips about making NNM a big GD deal:
Declutter Your Junk Food
Make a clean sweep of it before March comes in. If you have foods with lots of refined sugars, don’t rely on your willpower. Throw them out before NNM begins. Cookies, cake, ice cream and pie — it’s like decluttering your closet, only with food.
Throw those foods out of the pantry, out the refrigerator and off the kitchen shelves. Don’t give yourself the option of going back. Who knows, when April comes, you may not want them anymore. If you do, you can reintroduce them once March is over.
Follow MyPlate Guidelines
MyPlate is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) easy and quick method of making sure you’re eating healthy every day. If you ever wonder whether you should be aiming for two or three servings of vegetables per day, MyPlate is a handy guide. It divides a plate among all five food groups people should eat every day:
MyPlate shows how much of the day’s eating each food group should be. Fruits and vegetables, for example, should be half of what you eat at each meal, with vegetables eaten more often than fruit. Protein and grains each fill one-quarter of the plate. Milk is a cup for each meal (This one – use your personal discretion)
Make Vegetables and Fruits Fun
If you’re like many families, you may not be eating as many fruits and vegetables as you should. But there are a lot of ways to bring more vegetables and other delicious healthy foods into the mix. Declare Tuesday Red and Orange Day, for example. Focus on vegetables displaying those colors:
- Oranges for breakfast with scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese
- Tomato soup for lunch with caprese salad and a whole grain roll
- Chicken fajitas with sauteed red and orange bell peppers and avocado
Friday can be purple day. Be creative with purple cabbage, grapes, eggplant, blackberries and blueberries.
Go Meatless at Least Once a Week
The most “every day a themed holiday” idea really works for NNM. Because vegetables are healthy, it’s a good idea to introduce your family to vegetarian eating. Many vegetables, such as legumes, are great sources of protein. Dedicate at least a day to the vegetarian idea.
Many folks follow a Meatless Monday not only in March, but all year around. So plan meatless tacos for Monday night dinner. Pinto beans and rice can be combined with cheese, lettuce, sour cream and tomatoes for a truly scrumptious meal that will be a big hit — and quick to prepare. Peanut butter and jelly makes a great vegetarian lunch, so do wraps full of roasted vegetables.
Put Vegetables in Unexpected Places
Emphasize the importance of vegetables to nutrition by making incremental changes in favorite foods to include vegetables. Does your family love waffles? Mix in a bit of canned pumpkin. Pumpkin waffles are delicious with maple syrup.
Is clam chowder a favorite? Chowders benefit from the addition of vegetables like corn and finely diced carrots. Try cauliflower rice, cauliflower diced to fine grains, as the side dish to chicken, rather than using regular rice.
Drink Eight Glasses of Water Daily
Nutrition is about making sure we have enough of all nutrients. We need water to live. The more water we drink, the healthier our entire bodies, including our digestive systems, will be.
It can be hard to make sure you get eight glasses in a day, though. The easiest way is to drink two glasses with every meal, plus one in both mid-morning and mid afternoon. Put sliced lemon or limes in water to make it easier to swig, or buy flavored seltzer from the grocery store.
NNM can be fun and festive in addition to being healthy. I find myself looking forward to it more and more every year as a time to get creative with nutritious food. Join us!