March is National Nutrition Month, a multifaceted campaign focused on increasing the awareness of important healthy habits. This year’s theme is “Go Further with Food,” and the aim is to help people develop more sound eating and physical activity habits.

Backed by organizations like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, National Nutrition Month (NNM) started as a week-long event and has grown into a month-long observance in response to more focused public interest. The theme “Go Further with Food” in 2018 is a “three-pronged” (fork pun) focus to include: consuming fewer calories, increasing daily exercise and making informed food choices. Focusing on these three areas can help people with healthy weight management, goal-setting and planning.

Portion control when planning meals can make or break a diet plan. Eating a 2,000-calorie meal is counter-productive to healthy weight management, even when that meal is filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. Understanding what a single serving of each specific food group looks like in the real world is imperative when trying to control portion sizes.   Tweet This! For example, a single 3 oz. serving of lean meat should look like a deck of playing cards or bar of soap. You get more leeway with fruits and vegetables whose serving sizes resemble the size of a baseball or tennis ball.

Whole grain sources differ depend on the source, for example, ½ cup of cooked rice is about the size of a light bulb and one serving of bread is actually about the size of cassette tape. When it comes to fat and oils stick to one tablespoon, or about the size of a poker chip. Build your meals around your plate. One-half of your plate should be fruits and veggies, one-fourth should be protein, and one-fourth should be starches/grains. Plan your meals and shop strategically so that you can always have healthy food choices on hand.

[tweetthis] Getting daily exercise goes right along with portion control when it comes to healthy weight management.   Tweet This! Plan your exercise the same way you plan your meals to ensure consistency and success. Talk to your doctor about what proper physical exercise looks like for your individual health level. Find exercises you enjoy, and find others who can help you maintain accountability. Vary your exercises to avoid burnout, stagnation, and plateaus. If you don’t know where to begin with an exercise regimen, you might benefit from exercise classes/clubs or even personalized training with a certified professional.

Also, be sure to match your daily food choices to your activity levels. Did you focus on resistance training and weight lifting today? Reach for a meal higher in lean protein to help your muscles recover. Did you beat your goal for calories burned in a day? Reward yourself with something sweet (FYI, one serving of chocolate is the size of a dental floss package). Be cognizant of how you are fueling your body because you can’t “out workout” a bad diet.

Do your best to avoid fad dieting, and work to make more informed food choices.   Tweet This! Healthcare professionals like registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) are valuable and credible sources of timely, scientifically-based food and nutrition guidance. While it may increase your time spent in the grocery store, reading and paying more attention to nutrition facts panels on food and help you decide what to buy. Thoroughly reading facts panels will also help you to be more accurate than “a handful” when measuring serving sizes. Pay attention to carbohydrate/sugar levels, saturated fat levels, and sodium levels in your food. Above all, remember that food doesn’t have to be expensive to be healthy. What’s most important is that it contains the proper nutrients to fuel you.

National Nutrition Month can be the perfect time to renew or begin your focus on a healthier lifestyle. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Institute of Health all provide resources and information on proper diet, physical activity, and healthy food choices. Do not be afraid to seek out information and guidance from your healthcare provider for more personalized help. Making positive healthy changes with your family or a group of friends can help hold you accountable and increase your odds of success with weight management. Remember to fuel your body with a healthy and balanced diet because you’ll “Go Further with Food.”


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