With March comes National Nutrition Month®, and the timing couldn’t be better. It’s now several months past the new year, and if you’re like many people, your enthusiasm to achieve your health goals has started to wane.
National Nutrition Month® brings the chance to recommit and refocus your efforts on healthy eating. Remember, you absolutely are what you eat! The quality, or lack thereof, of the food you eat, determines the health of every part of your body. If your goal is to live a long, vibrant, healthy life, you must eat a nutritious diet.
With that in mind, here are 10 ways you can get the most out of National Nutrition Month® and improve the healthfulness of your diet.
Drink more water
While most people don’t think of water as a nutrient, the reality is water provides the basis for all other nutritional benefits. Your ability to break down, absorb and transport nutrients from food is dependent on the presence of adequate water. Plus, you’re 60% water, and you require constant replenishment.
Drinking enough water each day is critical for many body functions, including:
- Transporting nutrients
- Lubricating joints
- Regulating body temperature
- Flushing toxins and waste products
- Providing shock absorption
- Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight.
How much water you need can vary, but a good recommendation is to drink half your body weight in ounces each day and more if you sweat regularly.
Eat colorful vegetables
Vegetables get their color from nutrients called phytochemicals. These substances, produced by plants, act in the body to provide protective health benefits. For example, dark green leafy vegetables contain the phytochemicals carotenoids. These compounds are known to decrease the risk of conditions such as cancer and eye disease. In contrast, tomatoes, red onions, and berries get their color from anthocyanins. These phytochemicals protect against heart disease and decrease inflammation.
In general, the deeper the color of a vegetable, the more phytochemicals it contains. In addition, eating a variety of different colored vegetables provides a wide range of phytochemicals, each with a unique health effect.
So, the greater variety of colorful vegetables you eat, the more benefits you get. Overall, diets high in phytochemicals have been shown to:
- Protect the cardiovascular system from oxidative stress
- Decrease chronic inflammation
- Exert anti-obesity effects
- Decrease the risk of cancer
- Protect neurological health
- Counteract age-related changes
Colorful vegetables should be part of your everyday diet. We recommend richly-colored vegetables such as dark leafy greens, tomatoes, eggplant, broccoli, and peppers.
Cook at home
Eating out is one of the quickest ways to decrease the healthfulness of your diet. When you eat food from a restaurant, you don’t always know exactly what it contains or how it was prepared.
In contrast, when you cook at home, you have full control over your ingredients and food prep. You can choose foods that provide quality nutrition while avoiding all the bad stuff. Almost every other tip on this list is easier when you cook at home.
Choose whole foods
Whole foods such as fruits and vegetables are bursting with phytonutrients like flavonoids, polyphenols, and carotenoids. Lean proteins are full of muscle-building protein and essential B-vitamins. Foods like olive oil, avocado, and flaxseeds provide healthy fats to help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins (and all those carotenoids from those veggies), boost your immune system, and help you feel full.
Mother Nature is a master at packaging nutrients in convenient, synergistic objects (food!) that are perfect for supplying nutrients and sustenance to our bodies. The key is to eat them close to their natural stage – and eat a wide variety. Use this National Nutrition Month® to try a new fruit or veggie you’ve never heard of, or prepare a cut of meat you’ve never tried. Variety is the key to good nutrition, so give yourself permission to try something new this month.
Focus on fiber
Fiber is an essential nutrient for good health. High fiber diets protect the digestive system, boost immune function, prevent chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer, and aid weight loss.
Most of us consume far less than the recommended amount of fiber in our daily diets. Upping your fiber intake is a worthy goal for National Nutrition Month®.
To give your fiber intake a boost, focus on these high fiber foods:
- Leafy greens
- Raw veggies such as cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes
- Nuts and seeds
Cut out sugar
Diets high in sugar promote weight gain and contribute to inflammation in the body, a major driver of many chronic disease conditions.
There is no getting around the fact that a healthy diet is one that’s low in sugar. An excellent first step in breaking the sugar habit is to do a sugar fast. National Nutrition Month® provides the perfect opportunity.
Go sugar-free this month! Commit to skipping the sweets, cookies, candies, cakes, sugary beverages, and cereals for the next 30 days. Fill your diet with healthy fats and proteins instead.
Add herbs and spices
A healthy diet doesn’t have to be boring! As a matter of fact, if you’re eating a bland, unappealing diet in an attempt to be healthy, you’re missing out.
Herbs and spices are some of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat and they are your secret weapon to boost flavor while breaking your reliance on unhealthy fat and sugar. In addition, herbs and spices contain powerful antioxidants that protect the body from oxidative damage. When you’re cooking at home, add these flavorful herbs and spices to your dishes as often as possible. Good options include:
Ok, we know this may not sound like nutrition advice, but the reality is that digestion doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Exercise is critical for gut health.
Regular physical activity positively affects the microbiome of the gut. When you exercise, it promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria and boosts the diversity of microbes in the microbiome. Your microbiome is essential for the proper digestion and absorption of your healthy diet.
When you move your body, you also move the internal systems that make good nutrition possible. Get active to get the most out of your diet.
What you eat isn’t the only aspect of a nutritious diet. How you eat matters as well.
Mindful eating is the practice of being fully present and relaxed during meals. This way of eating aids digestion, promotes feelings of fullness, and increases your enjoyment of food.
Eating mindfully is also linked with weight loss success.
Follow these steps to be more mindful when you eat:
- Be fully present. Turn off all electronic devices and focus on your food.
- Observe how your body feels before, during, and after your meal.
- Savor. Notice the texture, flavor, and aroma of each bite.
- Be non-judgmental. Whatever you choose to eat, eat with appreciation and compassion towards yourself.
Work with a ShiftSetGo coach
The more you learn about nutrition, and how your body responds to certain foods, the easier it becomes to make quality food choices. Working with a ShiftSetGo coach is a fantastic way to get the support you need to reach your health goals.
Here at ShiftSetGo, our coaches love National Nutrition Month®! Raising awareness around healthy eating is central to the work we do. Our coaches are committed to helping our clients plan sensible lifestyle and diet changes to boost nutrition, all while achieving a healthy weight.
Let National Nutrition Month® be a springboard to a better diet. Try these nutritious eating tips or connect with us and find out how ShiftSetGo can work for you.