Prep Your Diet to Celebrate National Nutrition Month

Brighter, warmer days ahead help motivate healthy habits. It makes sense March is National Nutrition Month. Good nutrition can boost our energy and immunity after a sleepy season spent indulging on comfort foods and leftover holiday sweets. Ditch the chips and seize the season! Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation (PAHWF) shares how to prep your diet for an energizing spring.

Proper nutrition helps achieve and maintain a healthy weight while fueling the body with essential nutrients. Studies continue to reveal the direct connection between nutritional habits and a healthy mind as well as body. The foods we eat impact everything from your mood to numbers on the scale.

Back to the Basics

Father and son cooking in the kitchen

Diet trends are just that. They come and go, often based on contradicting or insufficient studies and with unrealistic expectations. Yet, the basics of healthy eating always remain the same, regardless of how strongly social media is touting grapefruits, apple cider vinegar, and seaweed.

Focus on vegetables. Sure, some are healthier than others. However, all are better than a hot dog. A side of carrots will always trump French fries. If you do not like kale, have a different leafy green. Vegetables are the best source of color for your plate, critical for the recommendation of “eating the rainbow.”

Try preparing veggies different ways. Sauté, bake, and mix into smoothies. Even picky eaters do not recognize the flavor of spinach or carrots when they are blended with fruit, ice, and maybe some yogurt. Adding different spices can flavor the most boring microwaved vegetables.

Use fruit for sweets. Of course, you want an occasional cookie. However, on a regular basis, satisfy your sweet cravings with nature’s candy: fruit. Experiment with options grown in tropical areas like mangos. You will add to your snack repertoire and expand your intake of vitamins and minerals. Plus, your daily apple will grow less boring that way.

Choose lean protein. Protein is essential to a healthy diet; however, we often consume more than needed. A serving of lean protein should be about the size of a deck of cards. Vary your choices. Options like eggs, nuts, seafood, and beans are healthy swaps for meatless days.

Use whole grains and fat-free dairy. Whether you are cooking or selecting prepared baked goods, try to avoid products made with whole dairy and refined flour. All-purpose flour is stripped of nutrients during the refinement process. The saturated fats in whole-fat dairy can contribute to cardiovascular disease and weight gain. Eating their healthier counterparts allows you the nutritional goodness of dairy and grains without the negatives.

Be Mindful

Noting what you eat allows control of portions, frequency, and ingredients. If you are tempted to snack because of boredom, go for a hike. If you crave a comfort meal, swap out ingredients like butter with olive oil or salt with onion powder. And, stay within your recommended calorie needs. Just because food is healthy does not mean you can overindulge. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more tips on healthful nutrition.

Grow a Healthy Garden

With spring upon us, consider growing a garden to support healthy eating habits. If you do not have yard space, use pots for fruit-bearing plants and herbs. An herb garden is low maintenance and adds fresh flavor to tea, salad, and soup. You may enjoy this healthy hobby so much you decide to participate in the 2024 Home Garden Contest for cash prizes. There are categories for all types of gardens, including produce gardens.

Gardening is a fun, healthy outlet that beautifies and feeds our community and earth. Plus, you get to enjoy a convenient, economical, and healthful bounty.

Get Everyone Involved

Kids who help prepare meals and snacks can be introduced to healthful options in a way that allows them control. Sampling, sprinkling, and deciding on which (healthy) foods to add to their plate is empowering. Check out the 17th Annual Wellness Fair in Boyertown on March 16. There will be plenty of healthy treats, including healthy cooking contests for Boyertown School District’s kid chefs.

Learn more about the Pottstown Area Food Collaborative, which helps increase access to healthy, affordable, culturally appropriate, sustainably produced food. You also can gain tips on good nutrition through Tower Health here and PAHWF’s healthy eating and nutrition resources, including yummy recipes.