March is national nutrition month. Every year the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics creates a special theme to raise awareness about the importance of making informed food choices and developing healthy eating and physical activity habits. This year’s theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward”. I absolutely love this theme because this is where it all starts- the fork you pick up. This theme encourages us to start making small changes in our eating habits, literally one fork at a time. Creating a healthy lifestyle can be very overwhelming. I always let my clients know that the last thing I expect from them is a complete overhaul of their eating behaviors overnight. I encourage them to focus on one area of their eating habits that they would like to work on and go from there. What small changes can you start working on? The Academy lists some suggestions to start off with. I’ll list them and expand on each.

1- Create an eating style that includes a variety of your favorite, healthful foods.
Assess your current eating style. Does it include eating out or home cooked meals? Does it include fruits and vegetables? Does it focus on whole grains and quality meats or is it mostly processed foods? From there choose one thing that you could do differently to include your healthy foods. Perhaps it could be pre-cutting your fruits and vegetables ahead of time for the week. Perhaps it could be learning to cook a new whole grain such as quinoa or barley. Perhaps it could be preparing healthy snack options so when you do go to run your errands you have an apple or yogurt to snack on instead of a chocolate bar. What is one thing that you could do differently?

2- Practice cooking more at home and experiment with healthier ingredients.
Do you cook at home? Do you enjoy it, why or why not? If not, what can you do to make it a more enjoyable experience? If it’s lack of time could you do a little meal prep on the weekend to help with reducing prepping and cooking time during the week? Maybe it’s creating a meal plan so you know what to cook for the next couple of weeks? Or perhaps trying out one new recipe a week to create something new and exciting. Cooking at home encourages you to experiment with new ingredients and be mindful of your eating. And it is guaranteed to be less in fat, sugar and salt compared with take out, processed meals.

3- How much we eat is as important as what we eat. Eat and drink the right amount for you, as MyPlate encourages us to do.
When planning meals ask yourself does this dish have 3 out of the 4 food groups I should include? Does it have vegetables, fruit, a protein, a whole grain or dairy? MyPlate is a great visual to refer to when planning meals because it illustrates food groups and portions to aim for in general. It is a guide however, so it is important to seek a Registered Dietitian for more tailored nutrition recommendations. Stay hydrated by drinking calorie free beverages, the best of which is water!

4- Find activities that you enjoy and be physically active most days of the week.
What does physically active mean to you? For many the moment exercise is mentioned they say that they don’t have a gym membership or they don’t like going to the gym. But physical activity does not need to involve a gym at all! It’s any movement that you could do consistently and that you enjoy. It could be playing tennis, ice skating, swimming, going for a brisk walk, gardening, doing yoga, or dancing. Any activity that brings up your heart rate is considered physical activity. Aim for a variety of activities and the most important thing is to be consistent most days of the week. Grab a partner to stay accountable or use a fitness app to track your progress. Increments of 10 minutes throughout a day do add up!

5- Manage your weight or lower your health risks by consulting a registered dietitian nutritionist. RDNs can provide sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences and health-related needs.
A registered dietitian is the food and nutrition expert who has qualifications to counsel people and provide personalized nutrition advice that is based on scientific evidence. Working with a registered dietitian allows you to dig deep into your current lifestyle and see what changes need to be made to reduce risk of chronic diseases and live a healthy enjoyable life. To find a RDN near you visit eatright.org

So how will you put your best fork forward?

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