Each year during the month of March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics invites everyone to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthy eating and physical activity habits.
The "nutrition celebration" began in 1973, and this year's theme is "Personalize Your Plate."
We are all unique -- with different weights, heights, shapes, activity levels, calorie needs, backgrounds and tastes -- so all our plates will be different as well.
We should each strive to eat a variety of nutritious foods every day. A good place to start is to make sure you include something from each of the five food groups for every meal.
This would mean including healthy whole grains, fruit, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy as recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture's MyPlate.
Other suggestions for National Nutrition Month include:
• Hydrate healthfully. Choose water over sodas, sport drinks, juices and other sugar-sweetened beverages.
• Learn how to read nutrition fact labels. These contain information including how many servings are in each product; how many calories are in a serving; and the amounts of nutrients, sugar and sodium. Making a habit of reading food labels before you buy a product can help you make healthier choices that in turn lead to healthier meals.
• Avoid distractions while eating. Eating while watching television or doing other activities can easily lead to overeating. Be mindful of what you're consuming and take the time to enjoy your food.
• Plan your meals each week. This can be accomplished by using a grocery list to shop for healthy foods and selecting healthy recipes to make during the week.
• Learn cooking skills that can help you create tasty meals. Keep healthy ingredients on hand, practice food and kitchen safety, and try out new foods and flavors.
• Consult a registered dietitian nutritionist. Talk with your primary care physician and ask for a referral to a registered dietitian nutritionist to receive personalized advice if you need help meeting your nutrition goals.
To learn more about MyPlate and ways to improve your eating habits, you can visit www.myplate.gov. Explore the website for lots of great research-based nutrition information and click on the "Resources" tab to test your nutrition knowledge, build skills and make a healthy-eating plan for you and your family. Be sure to check out the "MyPlate Kitchen" tab to get access to a huge assortment of tested, healthy recipes.
Pia Woods is a county extension agent and staff chair of the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service, part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. Details: [email protected], https://www.facebook.com/UAEXJeffersonCo or uaex.edu/Jefferson, or (870) 534-1033.