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March is National Nutrition Month and most of us know that a healthy diet is a very important part of a healthy life style. But what if our eating habits are a bit less than nutritious or healthy? Where should we start to make our habits –and our children’s habits – better? The American Dietetic Association reminds everyone that an easy way to focus on eating better is to start with the basics and to build better eating habits from the ground up.
“By starting with small changes (baby steps) and laying a good nutritional foundation you will be on your way to a healthier lifestyle,” said Roxanne True, registered dietitian with Lincoln Trail District Health Department. “Small changes in your eating habits will help to make a big difference. To be effective change doesn’t have to be drastic.”
Some small changes that would be helpful include:
•Focus on fruits and vegetables: If you look at your current way of eating you will probably realize that you aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables, the seven to nine servings recommended each day. If you are falling short of this goal, add a serving each day to one meal and increase it every few weeks.
•Be a good role model: Children learn eating habits from their parents and other caregivers and that includes their willingness to try new foods. One of the most important things you can do to help your children eat a healthy variety of foods is to offer your children as many new foods as possible and as soon as the children start eating solid foods (table foods). Learning to enjoy new foods is much harder later in life.
•Make calories count: Many times people believe that there are good foods and bad foods and that to be healthy they should only eat the “good foods.” Instead of looking at foods as good or bad focus on the nutrients, including vitamins and minerals that are in the food and choose the food that offers the most nutrients for the calories. A low calorie food that is also low in nutrients (diet soft drink) is not necessarily a better choice than a higher calorie food that has more nutrients (a glass of juice).
•Tempt your taste buds: A healthy eating plan focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat/fat-free dairy products and lean meats, fish, poultry, beans and nuts. Instead of eating the same foods that you know you enjoy, why not try a new variety of fish or fix a vegetable in a new way?
•Trick yourself with treats: Eating healthy doesn’t mean depriving yourself. If you have a sweet tooth or a craving for salty snacks, enjoy a dessert of fruit and yogurt, have a serving of trail mix, hot air popped popcorn or nuts as an afternoon snack. Even cakes, cookies and pies are allowed, just remember to eat small portions and don’t enjoy them too often.
For more information on healthy eating contact your local health department or visit www.eatright.org and click on “For the Public.”
Roxanne True, M.S., L.D., R.D. is the WIC coordinator for Lincoln Trail District Health Department. Nutrition counseling is available for children and adults by appointment at the LaRue County Health Center. For more information, call 358-3844.