Celebrate National Nutrition Month by starting new healthy habits

Siddhi Shroff

Siddhi Shroff

Written by Siddhi Shroff, a registered dietitian at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

March is known for St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness, but did you know it’s also National Nutrition Month? It’s the perfect time to highlight and celebrate the importance of a healthy diet. Maintaining a healthy diet can help reduce the risk for many cancers, as well as the risk for heart disease, hypertension and other conditions.

Here are some tips to help you find and maintain your healthy eating style.

Focus on fruit

Make whole, fresh fruits a priority. Fruits provide many nutrients important for health, including fiber and vitamins A and C. Try to enjoy them fresh, dried, frozen or canned in 100 percent juice. Be sure to check the nutrition label to make sure the fruit does not have added sugars.

Eat a variety of veggies

Vegetables also have an abundance of vitamins and minerals beneficial for health. Add a variety of vegetables to your plate by choosing vegetables of various colors like red, orange, purple, green and yellow. Besides fresh vegetables, frozen and canned vegetables are great ways to add veggies to meals and snacks. They can be just as nutritious as long as you avoid frozen ones with added sauces, gravies, butter, cream or cheese, all of which can add extra calories. And make sure to look for canned vegetables labeled as “low sodium” or “no salt added” to avoid excess sodium.

Make half your grains whole grains

Look for products that have a whole grain listed as one of the primary ingredients. Substituting whole grains in any recipe that calls for white or refined-grain foods can be an easy way to add more whole grains to your day. Whole-grain products such as whole-grain breads, pastas, tortillas, brown rice and quinoa are all great sources of fiber.

Start a protein routine

Incorporate different varieties of protein in your meals. Along with lean meats and poultry, try including other sources of protein such as fish, eggs, unsalted nuts and seeds, and beans and peas. These foods can be added to dishes such as salads, soups and casseroles. Instead of frying, prepare these foods with healthier cooking methods like baking, roasting, broiling, grilling, braising or stewing.

Limit sodium, saturated fat and added sugars

Use the nutrition label to help you limit foods and drinks that are high in sodium, saturated fat and added sugars. Instead of sugary drinks, drink water infused with fresh fruit. Use vegetable oil instead of butter in recipes like sauces and dips to cut saturated fat and sodium.

Move to low-fat or fat-free dairy

In recipes that call for sour cream, cream or regular cheese, opt for low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk or low-fat cheese along with fat-free options to limit saturated fat in your diet.

Information from ChooseMyPlate.

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