National Nutrition Month: The Happiest Time for Dietitians

National Nutrition Month 2017

It’s that time of the year where Registered Dietitians/Nutritionists start celebrating! National Nutrition Month is finally here. A whole month dedicated to healthy eating and wellness—how fun, right? This is when nutrition can finally take the spotlight and we as dietitians get recognized as the nutrition experts of the world. We even have a dedicated day for ourselves! I’m sure you were well aware of this 😉 This year RDN Day falls on March 8th, 2017. So, if you know a dietitian don’t forget to bring her/him something nice.

RDN Day 2017

So, how did National Nutrition Month start you may ask? Well, that is a very good question. I asked myself the same and through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) website, eatright.org, I found out the idea was first introduced in 1973. This started as a one-week event called National Nutrition Week, which garnered so much attention and popularity that by 1980 it was made the month-long celebration we know and love today. This occurs every year in the month of  March.

Fun Fact #1: Did you know the theme for the first ever nutrition week in 1973 was “Invest in Yourself—Buy Nutrition”?

Throughout the years AND has used a different theme for each campaign. This year’s theme has been titled “Put Your Best Fork Forward”, which brings attention to the fact that each bite counts. Not only is it important to choose the right foods, but also to choose the right portion. Making sure our diet stays balanced and varied is key to healthy living and we can do this one forkful at a time.

Fun Fact #2: Did you know that promotional materials, such as posters and table tents, for National Nutrition Month made their TV debut in 1987? These were featured as cafeteria props for shows like Growing Pains and Head of the Class.

Key Messages for National Nutrition Month:

Vary your veggies: Choose vegetables from all colors of the rainbow for the greatest variety. Each of these will provide different key nutrients so it’s important we have enough of each to give our bodies what they need. Try adding to salads, soups or as a side item to your main dish. Buy local, seasonal produce to save some cash.

Focus on whole fruits: Like your veggies, you want to make sure your fruit is colorful. Fruits are great sources of fiber that can help with weight control and promoting healthy blood glucose levels. Pack your fruit whole for easy snacks on the go, or try blending up for delicious smoothies without the need of adding any sugar.

Make half your grains whole: This is another area where we can vary our grains to maximize our nutrition. Incorporate new grains, like quinoa or wild rice, in your old favorite recipes. Another easy switch is to buy whole grain breads instead of refined wheat products. For more info on this, see my blog post Understanding Whole Grains.

Whole Grains

Vary your protein routine: We can do this by consuming more plant-based protein, such as beans and lentils. Cook a meatless Monday dish each week or substitute some of the meat for beans. You can also eat more seafood. The recommendations currently call for two 4oz. servings of seafood each week.

Move to low-fat and fat-free dairy:  Good options include low-fat/nonfat yogurt and milk. These are good sources of protein, calcium and vitamin D. Greek yogurt with no added sugar gets my pick every time. Try eating once daily for a good dose of probiotics as well. Alternatively, if you are vegan or are following a dairy-free diet, adequate substitutions would include fortified nut milks, such as soy, almond, and coconut. Just make sure these are unsweetened.

Fruit and Granola Parfait

What should you do now?

In short, National Nutrition Month is a great campaign to bring awareness to healthy eating, not just now but year-round as well. The best way to start is with small changes. When you set small, attainable goals it makes it much easier to attain them. This also provides the stage for long-term healthy eating patterns. Focus on one meal at a time or even just one food group. Small changes can be as simple as making it a goal to eat 3 servings of veggies each day or having at least 2 plant-based meals weekly. Just remember that everything you eat and drink matters.

What are you doing to celebrate National Nutrition Month this year?  Do you have any additional tips for eating right? Please share by leaving me a comment in the box below. I’d love to hear from you!

Jessamyn