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Adopt a Healthy Habit in Honor of National Nutrition Month

Being healthy does not mean doing a complete diet overhaul. Instead, adopt a healthy habit, and challenge yourself to keep it up until the end of National Nutrition Month.

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March is National Nutrition Month, a month to pay closer attention to nutrition, make informed food choices, and develop sound eating and physical activity habits.  Improving your nutrition does not mean that you have to have a massive diet overhaul – instead, try making small changes that add up to healthier living.  This year’s theme is “Enjoy the taste of eating right,” reminding people that eating right can be delicious too.  Since we are more than halfway through March, challenge yourself to adopt a healthy habit until the end of the month.  Here are some tips that will help get you on your way to a healthier, fitter you:

Swap Out Foods to Get the Most Nutrition for Your Calories
Nutrient-rich foods are foods that provide the most nutrition per calorie, meaning that they offer vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and other essential nutrients for relatively few calories.  When you make sandwiches, swap out your white bread for whole-grain bread.  You can also swap chips for veggies if you take a few minutes to wash and chop vegetables and have them ready in small baggies to make for quick snacks for the family. Swapping out soda for nutrient-rich, low-sugar beverages, such as low-fat or fat-free milk, or 100% fruit juice, can also make a significant impact on one’s health.

Plan More Family Meals
"Research shows that family meals promote healthier eating – more fruits, vegetables and fiber; less fried food; and often fewer calories," says registered dietitian, nutritionist, and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson Angela Ginn. Try to fit in another family meal, either having dinner together each night, or waking the kids up for a family breakfast on Saturday morning.  By eating at home and eating as a family, you will not just avoid the cost of dining out, but you can positively influence your kids by showing them what a complete meal looks like – not just a meal on the go.

Turn Up the Taste
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, taste is the leading reason for why a person would choose a less nutritious food over a more nutritious one.  Turn up the taste by experimenting with flavorful additions, such as pomegranate seeds, chipotle pepper, or cilantro, or more tangy tastes such as citrus juice or lemon peel.  Red, green, and yellow peppers also make flavorful additions to a stir fry or salad. This spring and summer, there will be plenty of Farmers' Markets popping up in towns across the Island where you can grab some fruits & veggies - a great way to get out, get some sun, and stock up on fresh produce!

Try Something New
Make it a point to buy a new fruit, vegetable, or whole grain each time you go to the grocery store. You never know if you can find your new favorite superfood that can help change the way you see nutrition.

Dine Out at an Asian, European, or African Restaurant
Why Asian, European, or African?  Dishes from these continents tend to be healthier than American or Mexican options. They will also have menus with nutritious foods that will likely be new to you, which will help you to expand your palate.

Pick Up a Book
Just picking up a book won’t help you lose weight or feel better, but it can help you expand your knowledge of healthy eating and exercise for particular age groups and populations, including nutrition for children with special needs, and nutrition for pregnant women.  Take a look at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Good Nutrition Reading List and head to your local library to pick up your next great read that may help you pick a healthy habit.

Get Outside
Take a walk, or challenge yourself to walk each day after work or school.  Long Island has many nature trails to explore, as well as parks where you can walk your dog or play a game of frisbee.