Nutrition for Life - 2017

National Nutrition Month

By Parul Kharod

March is National Nutrition Month. It serves as a reminder for all the New Year's resolutions we made in January; a gentle nudge to be mindful and get back on track if we have started to veer off. Or to start making changes in case you never got around to making any resolutions!

The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics promotes National Nutrition Month every year with a different theme. This year's theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward."

There is no one super food or one best diet. In fact, one diet does not fit all! The best diet for you is one that you can maintain with long-term health goals in mind, with commitment to healthful lifestyle behaviors, healthy eating habits and daily physical activity.

So here are some tips that may serve as a guide and a reminder as we move forward with this year.

17 Tips for a Healthy 2017

Start the day right: Eat a good breakfast. Start your morning with a balanced meal that is rich is fiber and includes some protein to give you good lasting energy all morning. Oatmeal made with milk or soy milk with some fruit and nuts or a smoothie made with fruit, nuts and Greek yogurt, or whole grain toast with peanut butter. Or make Upma from whole grains such as cracked wheat or quinoa or steel cut oats.

Make half your plate full of vegetables: This could be two cooked vegetables or one subzi and one salad or vegetable soup. The more variety and colorful vegetables we eat, the better. Vegetables give us many vitamins, minerals, fiber and anti-oxidants.

Eat colorful fruit: Fruits also give us many vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Because fruit is all sugar, do watch portion sizes. On an average, we should eat more vegetables than fruit. There is a myth that people with diabetes should avoid fruit; this is not true. All fruits can be enjoyed by diabetics; however, watch portion sizes and limit fruit to two cups per day.

Be mindful of portion sizes: Not just fruit, but we all should be mindful of all the food we eat. Eating small balanced meals at regular intervals is the key to good long-term health.

Limit eating out: Grabbing quick meals from restaurants and fast food places may seem convenient, but it does take a toll on your health. Restaurant foods are very high in sodium and they also contribute to extra calories and Trans fat. The serving sizes are larger so it is easy to overeat. Make it a habit to pack lunch and snacks from home.

Cook healthy meals at home: In exchange for time and convenience, the art of cooking has been left behind. Revive the skill; teach it to your kids. Prepare extra meals over the weekend, use crock pots for easy meals. There is no substitute for a healthy home-cooked meal.

Drink water: Water is one of the body's most essential nutrients. Water helps maintain blood volume and helps regulate blood pressure. It helps lubricate joints and body tissues such as those in the mouth, eyes and nose. It helps keep body temperature constant at about 98.6 degrees, and it transports nutrients and oxygen to all cells and carries out waste products. Make a habit if drinking water regularly throughout the day. Have your kids develop a habit of drinking water.

Limit or avoid unhealthy beverages: Juice, soda, diet soda, diet green tea, fruit punch, Gatorade, Capri Sun, and any such drinks that have sugar, artificial sweeteners, or artificial colors are harmful for the body. Save them for an occasional treat but not as part of your daily routine.

Get Physical: You don't have to join a fancy gym, but we do need to move more. Whether at home or at the office if you have a desk job, make sure to get up every 30 minutes or every hour and walk around for a couple of minutes. Add whatever exercise routine you are more likely to stick to.

Fix healthy snacks: Healthy snacks can sustain your energy levels between meals, especially when they are balanced. Avoid packaged snacks made with maida and hydrogenated fats. Avoid fried snacks. Avoid granola bars and protein bars! Eat real food - try raw veggies with hummus, or a tablespoon of peanut butter with an apple or banana or a fruit with some nuts.

Avoid protein powders and excessive supplements: Any cleanses or powders that promise to build muscle or cause magic weight loss or are all harmful to the body in the long run.

Eat foods with fiber: Not fiber bars or supplements, but foods rich in fiber such as whole grains, beans, and vegetables.

Choose fats wisely: Avoid foods and snacks made with vegetable shortening (Dalda) or hydrogenated fats. Choose low fat dairy; 1% milk and 2% cheese – limit dairy portions. If you eat meat, choose 2-3 oz. portions of lean meats. Include healthy fats from nuts, nut butters, seeds, and avocado.

Use spices: All of our spices and seasonings have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Use turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and fenugreek on a regular basis.

Explore new foods and flavors: Add variety to your diet by expanding your range of food choices. Select a fruit, vegetable or whole grain that's new to you or your family, and experiment.

Eat more plant-based meals: Vegetarian and vegan diets have consistently proven beneficial for weight loss, better heart and kidney health, and to reduce risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. If you do include animal proteins, limit them to 1-2 days per week.

Enact Family Meal Time: Plan to eat as a family at least a few times each week. Set a regular mealtime. Turn off the TV, phones and other electronic devices to encourage mealtime talk.

-- Parul Kharod, MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist and works as a Clinical Dietitian with Outpatient Nutrition Services at WakeMed Hospital in Cary and Raleigh. She can be reached at