Put Your Best Fork Forward this Spring

Posted On Tuesday, 14 March 2017
Put Your Best Fork Forward this Spring

There’s something about spring that inspires many of us to clean out our closets and our kitchen cabinets. So, it’s fitting that National Nutrition Month® falls in March, a time when we are starting to dream about warmer temperatures, bountiful summer produce and lighter fare.

National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to emphasize the importance of making informed food choices. This year’s National Nutrition Month® theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” A reminder that every bite counts, this theme reflects the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for American’s recommendation to shift to a healthier eating pattern.

This idea that every bite counts also resonates closely with advice that I regularly share with my clients: small steps do add up to big changes. Additionally, I advise my clients that healthy eating can be as simple as choosing the more nutritious option between two foods, such as choosing a side salad instead of fries when eating out or a handful of nuts and dried fruit instead of a sugar-laden granola bar. This helps clarify the idea (and alleviate the pressure) of the somewhat-vague term “eating healthfully.”

Here are just a few examples of how you can make small changes that add up to a healthy lifestyle, one forkful at a time.

1) Amp Up Your Snacks

According to a recent survey, about 94 percent of Americans snack throughout the day. If you’re a nosher, make those mini-meals count by combining heart-healthy protein and/or fat with a high-fiber carbohydrate. Carbohydrates supply the energy our bodies need, and choosing a high-fiber option (think: fruits, vegetables and whole grains) ensures that you’re getting more nutrient bang for your calorie buck. Protein and healthy fat help to provide fullness and satiety, which helps to tide you over until your next meal.

Here are some simple and portable nutrient-rich snacks: vitamin C-rich mini bell pepper halves with omega-3 rich tuna, fiber-rich whole grain cracker topped with probiotic-rich yogurt and antioxidant-rich blueberries, fiber-rich air-popped popcorn with vitamin B-rich rosemary and grated parmesan, or a square of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate square with vitamin C-rich blackberries.

2) Go Whole

According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, most Americans eat plenty of grains, but too little of those grains are whole. Those refined (or “white”) grains tend to be stripped of beneficial nutrients, such as dietary fiber, iron and many B vitamins. Therefore, eating a diet rich in refined grains, instead of whole grains, like oats, brown rice, farro, bulgur, sorghum and whole wheat pastas and bread, likely means you are missing out on those important nutrients.

The Dietary Guidelines urge us to make at least half of our grains whole. This is simple to do by replacing your refined grains with nutrient-rich whole grains. Instead of choosing a baked good, top whole grain toast with 100 percent fruit preserves or peanut butter and a couple of melted dark chocolate chips. Replace white pasta and white rice with whole grain pasta and brown rice. Mix ancient grains like farro and sorghum with a pouch of tuna and veggies for lunch. Top oatmeal or whole-grain cereal with berries instead of choosing sugary refined-grain cereals.

3) Shift Your Proteins

According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, American adults eat enough protein but not enough protein from heart-healthy seafood. Seafood, which includes fish and shellfish, is one of the few sources of omega-3s DHA and EPA, which are critical for a baby’s developing brain and eyes, as well as boosting heart, brain and eye health throughout the rest of our lives. Eating fish with omega-3 fatty acids may significantly lower your risk of dying from a heart attack, according to the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. The Guidelines recommend that Americans eat at least 2-3 servings (or 8-12 ounces) of a variety of seafood each week. Seafood provides other important nutrients, including vitamin D, selenium and B vitamins.

In order to fit more seafood into your weekly meal plans, the Dietary Guidelines recommend replacing meat and poultry with seafood a couple of times each week to meet omega-3 needs. An easy way to do this is to substitute a variety of seafood for meat and poultry in your family’s favorite dishes. Hamburgers become barbecue salmon burgers, shredded beef tacos become spicy shrimp tacos and chicken quesadillas become tuna quesadillas. Or, try adding sardines to your pizza, canned crab to your mac-n-cheese and pouched tuna to your spaghetti sauce.

These are just a few ways to put your best fork forward this month and throughout the year. For other ideas and recipes, visit GetRealAboutSeafood.com.

Rima Kleiner, MS, RD, LDN

Rima Kleiner, MS, RD, LDN is a nationally-recognized food and nutrition expert. She helps translate nutrition science into bite-sized, impactful language for media, workshop audiences, policy makers and organizations like the National Fisheries Institute. For more tips and tricks, follow Rima on the Dish on Fish blog.

Website: dishonfish.com/

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