We all have it in our power to make better choices with every fork-full of food we put into our bodies each day. March is officially National Nutrition Month, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the professional organization for registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) in America, wants everyone to “put their best fork forward” in 2017.
Understanding that aiming for good nutrition is a continuous journey, we all start somewhere and this month is a perfect time to kickstart healthier habits! Here are some simple tips to help you get there:
1) Swap Smartly - Swap out one refined, low-fiber, staple starch that you eat almost every day (like tortillas, pasta, english muffins or rice) for it’s whole-grain version. What do you get? More vitamins, minerals, healthy fat and protein that is lost during processing, when the outer bran and endosperm are removed from the grain to make it “white.” Plus, more satiating, cholesterol-reducing and gut-strengthening fiber. Look for the word WHOLE as the first ingredient on packaged foods such as tortillas and bread, and go for whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, barley, buckwheat (gluten-free) or farro to replace white rice.
2) Prepare Satisfying Snacks in Advance - Fill your pantry and fridge with healthy snacks, pre-portioned and ready-to-go, so you can easily grab them on busy days, and avoid checkout line impulse purchases or “hanger”-induced fast food runs. Here are some easy ideas:
- Slice pepper, celery, carrot or jicama sticks and store them with small containers of hummus or yogurt-based dips for a hydrating, crunchy pick-me-up.
- Choose whole grain crackers or rice cakes and top them with fruit and seed butter or yogurt of choice (dairy or non-dairy).
- In small containers, make chia seed pudding by combining at least 2 tablespoons of chia seeds with your choice of milk, sweetener of choice, and fresh or frozen fruit.
Store in the refrigerator and grab when you’re on your way out of the door!
3) Eat Mostly Plants - Incorporate more vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts or seeds into your diet at snacks and meals. Fresh fruits and vegetables are full of water and electrolytes, which can enhance hydration and mental clarity during a midday “slump” when chosen as a snack. Legumes, nuts and seeds combine sustaining protein with fiber in a single package, which gives you a double-whammy of natural satiety to keep you full and your belly happy. They are also friendlier to our environment than animal-based proteins, requiring fewer resources and producing fewer greenhouse gases. Increasing the amount of plant protein in your diet is an easy way to leave less of a carbon footprint on the earth while also benefiting from the powerhouse of nutrition they bring to the table.
4) Eat Frequently Throughout The Day - Skipping meals or underfueling during the day can lead to excessive hunger, cravings, and binge-like eating later in the evening, leaving you feeling even more sluggish and your metabolism out of whack. Keep blood sugar and energy levels in check all day by eating a meal or mini-meal balanced in healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and high-quality protein every three to four hours.
5) Keep it Simple - When shopping for packaged products, look to the ingredient list first. Pick products that list easily recognizable, whole-food ingredients that you would be likely to keep in your kitchen and would feel good about eating any time. Additives are often included to boost protein, fiber and vitamin and mineral content in packaged foods, but we can easily meet our needs for these nutrients by combining foods in balanced and conscious ways. Here are a few examples of high-protein, high-fiber snacks that use real food ingredients and zero additives:
- Trail Mix (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, popcorn, dried chickpeas, dried apricots, dark chocolate chips)
- Hummus and and fresh veggie dippers
- Apple, seed butter and dried chickpea “nachos”
- Chia pudding mixed with berries and drizzled with seed butter
Contributed by Hannah Meier, 88 Acres Nutritionist and a registered dietitian and food advocate based in Boston, Massachusetts. She completed her combined Bachelor’s in Dietetics and Psychology at the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 2014 and moved to Massachusetts shortly after to complete her dietetic internship at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is now pursuing her Master’s in Nutrition Communication and Behavior Change at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. She believes nutrition can and should be accessible, easy, fun, and flexible. An avid runner and budding yogi, she practices living life in balance, using food as fuel and helping others find a happy relationship with food and exercise. Her favorite 88 Acres product is a schmear of pumpkin seed butter spread on a slice of sprouted grain toast, topped with pomegranate seeds.