Healthy Eating: March is National Nutrition Month
March is National Nutrition Month — a perfect time to breathe new life into stagnant winter eating patterns.
A long, cold winter can take its toll on healthy eating habits. The once-anticipated winter menu of Shepherd’s pie, broccoli quiche, crockpot chili and the like, by March is so overdone many give up on finding other healthy alternatives and call for greasy take-out meals instead.
Less sunlight, frigid temperatures and huddling inside can bring out the bear in us, too — with a yearning for sweets and sleep.
All we need is a whiff of spring to revive our palate though, and this tends to happen just in the nick of time in March. Don’t worry if the New Year’s resolution to lose weight went haywire. It’s a great time to jump back on the nutrition wagon. Pounds may shed naturally, or even if they don’t, a higher energy level and overall good health are worth the effort.
When motivation wanes with winter cooking, we can get into a rut of only focusing on the main entrée and neglecting to balance meals with vegetables.
This can limit beneficial nutrients and bump up calories. For example, if lasagna, pizza or the like are the only choices on the plate, the tendency is to eat more of it, which increases the saturated fat, sodium and calories of the meal. But add a large salad or a side vegetable, like green beans or broccoli, and not only does the nutritional value of the meal go up, but overall calories typically drop.
Use March as a springboard to bring balance back to meals with fresh seasonal vegetables, like asparagus, artichokes, baby carrots, young beets, sugar snap peas, radishes, baby spinach, mustard greens, watercress and arugula salads with Vidalia onions or scallions. Spring cherries and fresh strawberries can offer a sweet nutritious treat, too.
With warmer air on the way, think lighter and consider making meals without heavy starches. When our population washed their own clothes, cleaned all day, walked to work or labored in machine shops, there was a need for filling, starchy foods.
But today washing machines, cars and desk jobs have negated this problem. To lighten up your food routine, try skipping the rice, pasta, bread, and potatoes and instead serve meals with large portions of fresh vegetables along with a lean protein, like fish with spinach salad or chicken with asparagus and carrots, for example.
To break out of the winter doldrums, try a weekly meal plan. Visualize healthy, balanced meals for each day of the week and jot them down before food shopping. Then use this information to create a food shopping list. Chop and prepare vegetables to be ready for the busy week ahead. Post your plan in view to stay focused, to defrost items for the next day and to limit impulse eating.
Imagine glancing up and seeing your plan of lemon chicken and arugula salad, prepped and ready to go, on Wednesday, for example. Wouldn’t this make calling for pizza less appealing?
Joan Endyke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in food and nutrition. Send your questions to her at wickedgoodhealth.com. This column is not intended to diagnose or treat disease. Check with your doctor before changing your diet.