March – even without the current challenging times of being in the midst of a troubling pandemic with COVID-19, March is always uncertain and a “bridge” to the prettier months of spring ahead. In addition to breaks for students in many schools, St. Patrick’s Day, and that bridge to the beautiful spring weather ahead, it is also National Nutrition Month®, which the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics promotes annually. During this pandemic and times of “social distancing,” we can still make positive, healthy choices in our personal care and health habits. As part of the annual campaign, the Academy encourages the public to focus on the importance of making informed food choices and developing healthy eating and physical activity habits. National Nutrition Month 2020 is themed “Eat Right, Bite by Bite” with an overarching message that quality nutrition isn’t restrictive, but that small changes to diet can have a cumulative effect on health over time. Every healthy nutritional choice is a choice in the right direction – even the small steps. Take a look back at the Unconditionally Her article on microsteps and how even SMALL steps can make a big difference when it comes to health.
Want to learn more? Visit the blog and learn tips that you can use not only this month, but into next month – and the next – and the next! To get you started, here are “20 Ways to Enjoy Fruits and Vegetables” courtesy of the academy. These are great microsteps that may pave the pathway to greater change.
Building a healthy plate is easy when you make half your plate fruits and vegetables. It’s also a great way to add color, flavor and texture plus vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Make 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables your daily goal. Try the following tips to enjoy more fruits and vegetables every day.
- Variety abounds when using vegetables as pizza topping. Try broccoli, spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini.
- Mix up a breakfast smoothie made with low-fat milk, frozen strawberries and a banana.
- Make a veggie wrap with roasted vegetables and low-fat cheese rolled in a whole-wheat tortilla.
- Try crunchy vegetables instead of chips with your favorite low-fat salad dressing for dipping.
- Grill colorful vegetable kabobs packed with tomatoes, green and red peppers, mushrooms and onions.
- Add color to salads with baby carrots, grape tomatoes, spinach leaves or mandarin oranges.*
- Keep cut vegetables handy for mid-afternoon snacks, side dishes, lunch box additions or a quick nibble while waiting for dinner. Ready-to-eat favorites: red, green or yellow peppers, broccoli or cauliflower florets, carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers, snap peas or whole radishes.
8. Place colorful fruit where everyone can easily grab something for a snack-on-the-run. Keep a bowl of fresh, just ripe whole fruit in the center of your kitchen or dining table.
- Get saucy with fruit. Puree apples, berries, peaches or pears in a blender for a thick, sweet sauce on grilled or broiled seafood or poultry, or on pancakes, French toast or waffles.
- Stuff an omelet with vegetables. Turn any omelet into a hearty meal with broccoli, squash, carrots, peppers, tomatoes or onions with low-fat sharp cheddar cheese.
- “Sandwich” in fruits and vegetables. Add pizzazz to sandwiches with sliced pineapple, apple, peppers, cucumber and tomato as fillings.
- Wake up to fruit. Make a habit of adding fruit to your morning oatmeal, ready-to-eat cereal, yogurt or toaster waffle.
- Top a baked potato with beans and salsa or broccoli and low-fat cheese.
- Microwave a cup of vegetable soup as a snack or with a sandwich for lunch.
- Add grated, shredded or chopped vegetables such as zucchini, spinach and carrots to lasagna, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, pasta sauce and rice dishes.
- Make fruit your dessert: Slice a banana lengthwise and top with a scoop of low-fat frozen yogurt. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of chopped nuts.
17. Stock your freezer with frozen vegetables to steam or stir-fry for a quick side dish.
- Make your main dish a salad of dark, leafy greens and other colorful vegetables. Add chickpeas or edamame (fresh soybeans). Top with low-fat dressing.*
- Fruit on the grill: Make kabobs with pineapple, peaches and banana. Grill on low heat until fruit is hot and slightly golden.
- Dip: Whole wheat pita wedges in hummus, baked tortilla chips in salsa, strawberries or apple slices in low-fat yogurt, or graham crackers in applesauce.
While it seems that so much is out of our control right now with the global pandemic, we CAN take control of our daily habits and continue to promote healthy habits including nutrition. Why not take the opportunity while sheltering in place to think through ways to improve your eating through these and other microsteps? Stay safe, healthy, and well!
*See “Smart Tips to Build a Healthy Salad” at www.eatright.org/nutritiontipsheets for more tips on creating healthy salads.
Feature image from pexels.com courtesy of Trang Doan.
Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, https://www.eatright.org/. Accessed 3/1/2020.