March is National Nutrition Month, and there’s no better time to make changes to your diet. Why? Because spring is almost here, which many call the season of change. If you missed out on making a New Year’s Resolution here’s your second chance.
National Nutrition Month is an annual nutrition education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing healthy eating and physical activity habits. The theme for National Nutrition Month this year is “Eat Right, Bite by Bite.” The goal of the rhyme is to make it easier for kids to remember, but also for adults to take it to heart, too.
The academy wants you to understand that every little bit of nutrition is a step in the right direction. Small goals/changes can have a cumulative healthful effect, so let’s look at a few ways you can get started on becoming a healthier you during National Nutrition Month, or any time of the year.
Heart-Healthy Nutrition Tips
The American Heart Association also wants to see you celebrate National Nutrition Month. You can do so by making heart-healthy food choices! Visit the Heart-Check Food Certification page on their website. Heart-Check marks make it easy to spot heart-healthy foods in the grocery store or when you’re dining out.
There’s a video at the top of the page that explains how the program works. You’ll also find additional nutritional education, like:
- Healthy Recipes: The Heart-Check program currently certifies recipes in several categories: Appetizers, Bread (muffins, quick bread, yeast bread), Desserts, Entrees (fish with omega-3 fatty acids, meat, poultry, salad, seafood, soup), Main Dish, Salads, Side Dishes, and Soups.
- Heart-Check Studies: You can read the findings from research done on the program and where it’s published.
- Heart-Smart Shopping: There’s a Heart-Check grocery list builder that gives you the full story on Heart-Check nutritional criteria.
- Healthy Cooking: This section includes healthier preparation, methods for cooking healthy, smart snacking, food substitutions and even summer barbecue tips
- Dining Out: This helps you choose a restaurant, talk with your server, decipher the menu, order your meal and make better choices when you eat at fast-food restaurants. Plus it offers tips by cuisine.
- Information on what it takes for food to become Heart-Check certified.
It’s just another way for you to educate yourself and make healthy food choices that are good for your heart.
Nutrition Labels: What to Look For
Heart-smart shopping goes beyond the grocery list to reading food nutrition labels, Things you should be looking for include:
- Checking the calories per serving and the first three ingredients. If the product seems within your calorie budget and the first three ingredients seem healthful, then buy it.
- Choose organic over natural. The term “natural” or “all-natural” has no definition, so manufacturers can use it as they wish. There is no indication that a food product is nutritious just because these terms are on the package.
- Read the label for calories, saturated fat, sugars and sodium and try to choose products that minimize these negative nutrients.
- If you purchase a food that appears to be a single serving, be sure to check the Nutrition Facts label to see how many servings the manufacturer says the package contains. Sticking to the appropriate serving size can help you to significantly cut calories and lose weight.
- To ensure that you’re buying a product that contains a significant amount of whole grain, choose one that has whole wheat, oats or another whole grain as the first ingredient.
- If there are more than 10 to 12 grams of sugar (high fructose or otherwise) per serving, make it a special-occasion food or beverage.
See how much you can do to celebrate National Nutrition Month? Even just adding a couple of these suggestions can help you become more heart-healthy and start building a healthier lifestyle, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
You can get some additional tips in our guide “Eating Healthy on a Busy Schedule.” You’ll find valuable information you can apply to your heart-healthy lifestyle, even when you’re on the go.