It’s National Nutrition Month

Posted 03/01/2016 | By HealthCorps

March is National Nutrition Month and it provides an opportunity to offer nutrition education and information, helping people to understand the importance of making healthy food choices and engaging in fitness to help with energy balance. This month’s Tuesday blogs will focus specifically on helpful tips and new studies.

The Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition created this yearly campaign, and the theme in 2016 is Savor the Flavor of Eating Healthy. If you choose to eat healthy, you know that the food has to be flavorful in order to satisfy your palate and cravings. The theme this year also asks you to focus on how, when, why and where you eat – because all of those variables influence your dietary choices and whether or not those selections are healthy choices.

How I eat

Ask yourself this series of questions to get a sense of your basic approach to eating:

Do I mostly stand when I eat?
Do I often eat in my car or on the run?
Do I eat out of boxes or packages?
Do I eat out a lot?
Do I mostly buy prepared and processed foods?
Do I inhale my food?
Do I eat while I work or watch TV?
Do I eat with my hands or do you eat the kinds of foods that require the use of a fork and knife?

Eat smart: Health experts suggest that cooking more at home allows you to control ingredients and portions. Studies also suggest that making time to sit down and really enjoy your meal will allow you to feel satiated and satisfied. Taking the time to chew your food thoroughly will slow your pace of eating, allowing your brain to receive the signal that you are starting to feel full. Eating with a fork and a knife will also help to pace your eating. Focusing on your meal and not allowing distractions like work, your phone or the TV allows you to eat mindfully, so your brain and your stomach have the opportunity to appreciate and even savor the meal. Plating food (instead of family style platters on the table) and choosing a lean protein, a serving of whole grains, and a large portion of vegetables will ensure that you are eating a balanced, nutrient-dense meal.

When do I eat?
Do I skip breakfast and lunch often?
Do I eat solid meals at set times or do I graze throughout the day?
Do I eat a very large meal at night?
Do I continue to eat (snacks) after dinner?

Eat smart: Eating breakfast every morning helps you to recharge your metabolism, which typically slows down during sleep hours. The morning meal also provides energy to fuel mental and physical activity. Skipping breakfast can set you up for excessive eating later-in-the-day. Individuals, who choose to graze all day long, lose track of calories. Regular nighttime snacking can often lead to excess calorie consumption. Daily breakfast should include a lean protein, healthy grain and fruit serving, plus a portion of a fat free dairy product. Include daily snacks as small bridges between meals, and aim for about 150 calories per serving. Once you eat dinner, keep after dinner snacks small and refrain from eating within two hours of bedtime.

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Why am I eating?

Am I truly hungry, or am I eating as a response to emotional cues?
Am I actually hungry or am I thirsty?

Eat smart: Always drink water or an unsweetened beverage first, if you find that you want to eat soon after a meal or snack. Recognize that many of us choose food to help us cope with happy and sad feelings, or we eat when we are stressed, anxious or bored. Learn to recognize true hunger versus emotional hunger. It’s important to find other ways to deal with your feelings. Keep a pack of sugar free gum handy to help you occupy your mouth when you’re really not hungry. Embrace the motto that “food is fuel.”

Where am I eating?
Am quickly eating my meal at my work desk?
Am I mindlessly munching while watching TV or using tech devices?
Am I taking second and third portions because I usually hang out at the buffet table?

Eat smart: Most experts recommend setting aside time to eat your meal and creating a tranquil and quiet space when possible. Avoid eating lunch at your work station. Eating while working doesn’t let you savor the food, which means you won’t feel satisfied and full. Try to create a quiet setting particularly for your dinner so you can really focus on the meal and truly enjoy the experience. Mindful eating can help you to limit calories, and it’s one of many tools that can help to support a healthy lifestyle.

Here’s a quick reference for how, when, where, and why you eat:
• Sit for meals
• Aim for three defined meals daily and one or two small snacks to tide you over between meals
• Try to eat your meals in a quiet, space that is designated as a food space and avoid watching TV or doing work while you eat
• Try to finish your last meal in the early evening and then brush your teeth
• If you do drink or eat after dinner, try to choose water or unsweetened tea and fruit or a very light, small snack
• Learn to recognize true hunger versus emotional hunger versus thirst

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Check in every Tuesday this month for nutrition news, tips and more in honor of National Nutrition Month!!

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