National Nutrition Month helps remind us of the unmistakable link between food, nutrition and health. You can find out more by visiting this year’s NNM site.
In honor of the 40th anniversary of National Nutrition Month, we’d like to share 10 categories of tips with you.
Won’t you join us in making this the best celebration ever of NNM?!
Back in 1973, The former American Dietetic Association, now known as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, established National Nutrition Week, which by 1980 turned into National Nutrition Month.
Going back to the recorded time of Hippocrates, he recognized that food had medicinal value for mankind. Ever since his time, there have been many others who have carried that idea forward. You likely have heard of the “Food as Medicine” movement which urges any of us to consider the importance of what & how much we choose to eat can dramatically affect our lives. Don’t forget the Exercise as Medicine movement, either–incorporate “Let’s Move” for physical fitness into your life as well–especially since the Let’s Move initiative has also teamed up with various sites that offer recipes to have those sites hopefully highlight some more healthful options for you!
It is an ongoing process for scientists as they continue to discover how food provides vital nutrients in ways our bodies can use them to function as optimally as possible.
The following is offered as infotainment only. As always, for health care services personalized for your unique health care needs, please consult your personal health care provider(s) qualified to practice in your particular location.
We’ve added some additional thoughts along with putting our own twist on some tips we reworked, which were originally shared as “Top 10 Heart-Healthy Cooking Tips” through the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Food and Nutrition Electronic Newsletter, Vol. 12, Number 2, from February 2010 (as well as a pdf), originally credited to Hope Barkoukis, PhD, RD, LD affiliated with Case Western Reserve University.
As you decide for yourself how to Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day during NNM and beyond, we hope you will consider how applying some of these tips in your life might benefit you and others you might shop and prepare food for.
Names for various cultural and other approaches to eating continue to come and go from media headlines (such as the Mediterranean Diet that often comes up as scoring well for promoting health for many, but isn’t going to work for everyone). What matters is the approach that makes sense & works best for your body. Respect your heritage, but most of all, respect your own body’s needs.
Keep in mind that actual food as a source of vital nutrients which interplay to help protect your body’s health is really something quite special. Nature provides these vital nutrients in a packaging form that bluntly scientists try to understand and then try to reproduce a version of that they hope your body can use equally well, but with varying success.
The combinations and ratios of nutrients in food items grown in Nature is often frankly quite hard if not impossible to duplicate–so when possible why not eat real food as grown in nature instead of substitutes for it? We don’t yet fully understand everything about food, and as we continue to learn, consider yourself fortunate to be able to access the form of food provided by Nature itself.
10 Categories of Tips To Honor the 40th Anniversary of National Nutrition Month
1. Back to Basics
How to: Rather than only choosing fruit juices, try choosing & eating ripe, fresh or dried fruit from whole fruit sources. Deep, vibrantly rich, jewel tone colors matter–look for fruits that exhibit exceptional color. Mother Nature really wants you to easily find some of the best she has to offer!
2. Choose Deep Shamrock Green — it’s March, after all;)
How to: Take a recipe that provides 4 sensible size servings for older children or adults (you can use national “my plate” resources or New York City’s “my child plate” or for weight reduction purposes adult plate resources to help you determine that if need be) which includes pasta, potato, quinoa, rice or another grain for a casserole, side dish, soup or stew, and consider adding in a full cup of chopped collard greens, fresh baby spinach, kale or Swiss chard pieces.
3. Concentrating Food Flavor
How to: Explore simple, oven-roasted vegetables or dishes that combine some microwave magic with some oven time to finish them off. Roast root and other veggies in the oven. Place evenly cut-up vegetable pieces* either on a silicone coated parchment paper or silicone baking sheet liner lined baking pan with sides. Use a canola oil type vegetable spray or olive oil in a mister to lightly spray the tops of the pieces and then roast them in the oven. Depending upon how large the vegetable pieces are, allow up to 45-60 minutes total at 375-400° F stirring once every 20 minutes of cooking time, until all the veggies are pleasantly browned and tender. (*If vegetables are cut in smaller chunks or sliced, they will cook more rapidly). Note: Be sure to add any higher water content vegetables, such as zucchini, toward the end of the total cooking time. Season as desired in last 10 minutes of cooking time. See a description and visual at Pinterest.
If you prefer cooktop preparation, then try caramelizing some “aromatic” vegetables that lend themselves towards that end.
4. Favor Fish
How to: Choose cold water fish that are baked or grilled (NOT fried) such as wild salmon and other omega-3 fatty acid containing fish choices for meals at least twice per week. See how various fish choices rank in omega-3 fatty acid content in this online Tufts shared resource compiled from data in the Minnesota Nutrient Data Base version 4.04. Some other options include albacore tuna, bluefish, cod, crab, herring, lake trout, lobster, mackerel, sardines, scallops, smelt, swordfish.
5. Go Nuts!
How to: Healthful options in the world of nuts and seeds can help to round out your daily eating. Bake or toast nuts to bring out their full flavor, then use as is or grind as needed. Chestnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, and walnuts have some better antioxidant ratings. Don’t forget that almonds are a source of monounsaturated fat. Flax and/or sesame seeds can also provide some resistant starch.
6. Jazz Things Up with Added 10 Minute Flavor #10MinuteFlavor
How to: Chiffonade, mince, shave, shred, snip as is appropriate any herbs, including but not limited to basil, chives, chervil, oregano, parsley, and sage; zest any citrus fruit rinds/skins (no pith, ‘tho); finely dice strips of flavorful pepper bits (no seeds, ‘tho) to add pungent aromatic and taste elements (as well as *ORAC value) to food items and skip the sodium in salt and other seasoning mixtures or use lower sodium options if need be. *For more about ORAC, etc., also see our NNM Tips: Develop Flavor in 10-Minutes-or-Less from March 7, 2012 and our blog post from November 25, 2011 Good-For-You Qualities of Spices and Herbs .
Chili seeds tend to have potent “heat” aka “pain receptor” perceived elements so be very careful and forewarned about using such seeds in any food prep.
Grate, grind, mill, (or pulverize via an apothecary’s mortar and pestle) as feasible intact spices to release their fragrance and oils prior to adding them to a food dish to increase overall appeal and available ORAC value. As an alternative, use convenient pre-ground spices that are still pungent.
Crush, finely mince, slice, or smash garlic cloves before you let that fresh prepped garlic sit out allowing ~10-15 minutes for the release of the enzyme allinase; then lightly saute; cut off tops aka non-root ends of garlic bulbs before oven roasting them.
7. Less Can Be Better
How to: Whenever possible, choose less of commercially, highly mechanically processed food items since that type of over processing typically leads to less fiber content, and more sugar and more sodium content. Also choose no *trans fat and less saturated fat when there are feasible options for monounsaturated fat choices such as canola oil, olive oil, avocado, etc., that are available instead. *Research is emerging concerning conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is both a trans and cis fatty acid and found naturally in beef, lamb, and milk products (and which may help prevent disease incidence such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease), but other trans fat should be avoided.
8. Make Chocolate & Cocoa Count
How to: Explore using small amounts of non-alkalized aka non-Dutch process or in other words natural process cocoa based “chocolate” items in recipes. Remember that less sugar and less dairy will increase the odds of better access to the antioxidant components of natural cacao solids content. Keep in mind that cacao butter does not contain the antioxidants–only the brownish cacao solids do. Cacao content legally can refer to the combination of both cacao solids & cacao butter content in a product.
Look for more cacao solids as part of the 60% or more cacao content in products. Natural process cocoa powder (NOT commercial hot cocoa mix) is actually quite easy to use!
For more information see our 3 part blog series on Demystifying Chocolate and Cacao, starting with the first blog that will link to the other two parts.
9. Opt for Beneficial Food Source Fiber
How to: Choose fiber (& adequate fluids to accompany it–remember to “Rethink Your Drink” and consume more water based fluids) daily coming from a wide range of food sources such as from legumes, seeds, some resistant starches, vegetables, whole wheat & other whole grains such as barley & oats, whole vegetables including pulp & skins, and whole fruits including pulp & skins.
Check out resources such as “Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables” (aka JSY) as well as the Centers For Disease Control’s Fruits and Veggies Matter site and the Produce for Better Health Foundation’s Fruits and Veggies More Matters site.
See our Seasonal Fruit and Vegetable Guides (USA) blog post from June 26, 2012 for more details.
10. Vegetable or Other Substitutes for Traditional Pasta
How to: Use spaghetti squash which is lower in calories and rich in both beta carotene and folic acid, etc., as a substitute for traditional pasta, or explore other “resistant starch” source options.
Take advantage of “resistant starch” choices (also known as a prebiotic fiber) that aren’t easily digested in your small intestine so only a portion of them are slowly digested, and thus the majority of the resistant starch can reach your large intestine pretty much intact, thus providing a fiber benefit.
- cooked barley;
- cooked & cooled brown rice (as in rice salad);
- cooked lentils;
- cooked plantain;
- cooked & cooled potato (as in potato salad);
- cooked & cooled yams;
- cooked white beans;
- corn (rather than flour) tortillas;
- pasta made with some resistant starch;
- puffed wheat;
- pumpernickel bread or rye bread;
- slightly green raw banana and particularly green banana flour; or even
- toasted Italian bread or hard breadsticks or pasta made with more resistant starch content from retrograded high amylose corn;
- Add uncooked rolled oats to recipes to increase both fiber content and resistant starch content and provide an almost nutty flavor profile, although in other instances cooked rolled oats can still provide some resistant starch fiber benefits.
Enjoy the opportunity to Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day not just during National Nutrition Month, but for Wellness every day of the rest of your life!