In March, the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) encourages Americans to focus their attention on healthful eating and nutrition through National Nutrition Month®. This year’s theme is “personalize your plate” and encourages individuals to create nutritious meals by expanding their personal and cultural food preferences.
“Variety is the spice of life” as they say, and this is how individuals should view their meals. By adding new foods to your diet, meal planning can become more interesting and meals more fun. Here are some tips below for how to change up your menu, develop healthful eating habits, and personalize your plate.
1) Take a virtual trip with your plate
Each week pick a country that you may or may not have been to, read about the diet, and make a dish that is typical of the region. For example, travel with your plate to Greece, known for its healthy Mediterranean diet rich in seafood, whole grains, fruit, and vegetables, and make a typical Greek meal of Psari Plaki (baked fish), whole grain rice, and roasted vegetables.
2) Try one new fruit or vegetable every week
Pick a fruit or vegetable that you have never had before and add it to a meal. Spice up pasta by adding sauteed broccoli rabe (try this recipe), perhaps along with low fat chicken or shrimp, to add color, flavor, and important nutrients like vitamin A, C, and potassium. Another option is to switch out a low nutrient dense vegetable for one rich in vitamins and minerals, such as substituting a baked sweet potato for a white russet potato.
3) Prepare a meatless meal once a week
A movement called “Meatless Monday” was started in 2003 by the Monday Campaigns and in collaboration with John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The goal of the campaign was to reduce meat consumption by 15% for personal health and the health of the planet. A meatless dish can include dairy (cheese and eggs) like zucchini fritters or be completely plant based like a vegetarian chili. Either way you can increase your vitamin, mineral, and fiber intake and still get plenty of protein from a meatless meal.
4) Have lunch for breakfast
Breakfast is often just made up of a starchy bread product providing little nutritional value, such as a bagel or English muffin. Try having a salad for breakfast made with fruit, nuts, avocado, and a dab of yogurt to add some protein. Another option is an open faced broiled cheese sandwich of whole wheat bread topped with tomato and low fat Swiss or mozzarella cheese. This “breakfast sandwich” is both filling and nutritious providing, protein, fiber, and vitamin C to start your day. Avocado egg cups are also a fun and delicious way to enjoy more greens in the morning.
To learn more about National Nutrition Month® or to find a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) in your local area to consult with go to www.eatright.org.