While there’s never a bad time to learn about healthy food choices and exercise habits, this March is National Nutrition Month.
Throughout the month, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is offering tips for improving your health through what you eat and how you cook.
Getting proper nutrition has major health benefits, and it can improve your quality of life in some big ways, such as:
- Reducing your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other serious diseases and conditions
- Giving you more energy
- Helping you have healthy digestion
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Keeping your eyes, skin, teeth and gums healthy
- Protecting against infections
The theme of the 2022 National Nutrition Month is “Celebrate a World of Flavors,” and it’s all about recognizing the diverse cultural traditions based around food from across the world.
In honor of this month, here are eight tips to to help improve your nutrition and a few tasty, healthy recipes crafted by Memorial's nutritionist and executive chef.
8 Tips for Better Nutrition
- Fruits and vegetables should make up half your plate. One simple rule to follow: The more colors on your plate, the healthier it probably is. (According to Harvard Health, compounds known as phytonutrients give plants their colors, and each one provides different health benefits, including protection from chronic diseases.) And remember: Frozen and canned veggies can be just as healthy as fresh — as long as there isn’t excess salt, sugar or sauce.
- Get more whole grains. Swap in whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat bread or oatmeal instead of eating refined grains, like white bread, pasta or rice.
- Choose leaner proteins. Skip the hamburger for a leaner cut of meat or poultry — or even fish, eggs, seeds or beans.
- Hydrate properly. Instead of sweetened drinks like soda or juice, stick to water. For more flavor, add some lemon or lime slices to give the water a little kick.
- Cut down on solid fats. Fat is one-third of the macronutrients your body needs to function normally. While cutting back on butter, ice cream, sausage, and bacon are highly recommended, do include healthy fats in your diet, like nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, and fatty fish.
- Be mindful of your portion sizes. Check out nutrition labels to find what a serving size is. When you’re at restaurants, order smaller items or take half of your meal home for later.
- Reduce your sugar intake. Look at the nutrition label to see if your food has added sugars. At dessert time, swap cookies or pie for a healthier option like fresh fruit.
- Try healthier cooking methods. Not all food preparation is created equal. Instead of frying foods, try roasting, grilling, baking or poaching them. For flavor, use spices or herbs to improve taste rather than just adding salt.
Datasource: Green tea smoothie recipe
With spring just around the corner, here’s a recipe to help you stay cool in the hottest months. This comes from Pierre Flerismond, the executive chef at Memorial Regional Hospital.
- 2 cups frozen unsweetened pineapple
- 1 cup cold unsweetened green tea
- 1 tablespoon agave
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth and frothy. Serve right away.
- Serving size: 1 1/4 cup
- Calories: 106
- Protein: 1.4 g
- Carbohydrate: 27 g
- Fat: 0 g
- Cholesterol: 0 g
- Sodium: 260 mg
Datasource: Banana pumpkin oatmeal bread recipe
This recipe is a healthy, high-fiber, gluten-free option for breakfast, a snack or dessert. The pumpkin brings loads of protein and fiber, and it’s also rich in antioxidants and vitamin A.
Adding banana to the mix brings an ingredient that’s rich in potassium and can help regulate blood pressure. This recipe comes from Sheila Glazer, MS, RD, LDN, at Memorial Rehabilitation Institute.
- 1 banana (ripe to super ripe)
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/4 cup applesauce
- 1/4 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons raw honey
- 3 tablespoons real maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted (unrefined)
- 2 eggs, whisked
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups whole rolled oats
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips (at least 69% cacao)
- Preheat a conventional oven to 350 degrees.
- Mash the banana in a large bowl, and then add the pumpkin puree, applesauce, milk, honey, maple syrup, coconut oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix well.
- Grind the whole rolled oats in a blender or food processor until they’ve reached a flour-like consistency.
- In a separate bowl, combine the ground oats, pumpkin spice, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
- Spoon the oat mixture into the pumpkin mixture and combine. Remove any large chunks that remain, and let the mix sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Fold the chocolate chips into the batter.
- Pour everything into a 9x5 nonstick loaf pan (a sprayed baking pan works, too), and top with a few more chocolate chips.
- Bake for 50 minutes.
- Let the bread sit at least a half-hour before slicing.
Bonus tip from the chef: If you have leftover pumpkin puree that you’re not sure how to use, try making a pumpkin alfredo pasta.
Datasource: Sweet potato wedges recipe
This dish, also from Sheila Glazer, works great as a healthy substitute for french fries. Sweet potatoes are versatile, delicious and nutritious — high in vitamins A and C, as well as dietary fiber.
- 2 medium to large sweet potatoes
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees and bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.
- Cut the sweet potatoes into similar-sized wedges (perfection isn’t necessary; just close in size so they cook evenly).
- Add the wedges to boiling water and stir. Let them cook for 3-5 minutes, or until they start becoming tender. Don’t overcook, as they’ll finish cooking in the oven.
- Drain the wedges in a colander, and then place them in a large bowl.
- Add the avocado oil, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and mix everything together.
- Spread the potatoes evenly and in one layer on a nonstick baking sheet (or a baking sheet covered with parchment paper).
- Roast for about 10 minutes, shaking the pan about halfway through cooking.
- Once the potatoes are done, top with the parsley (if using) and serve.