Written by Taylor Newman, MS/DI student | Edited by Laurel Sanville, MS, RDN, LD
Did you know that March is National Nutrition Month®?
Each year the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic creates a campaign to celebrate making smart food choices and getting physically active. The theme for 2017 is "Put Your Best Fork Forward" to remind us that each bite counts. Small changes in our food choices can add up over time and make a big difference in our health. Let’s see how you can Put Your Best Fork Forward this March!
Variety is key
Eating different kinds of food is a great way to get a variety of nutrients. Sometimes it’s hard to try new recipes when your go-to meals are so easy to make, but here are some small, easy swaps that can transform your meal!
1) Swap your protein
- Experiment with plant-based proteins like beans or tofu in place of meat in recipes you already love. For example, change a chicken stir-fry into a tofu stir-fry, have a black bean burger instead of a beef patty, or try lentils instead of ground beef in your spaghetti sauce. Unlike meat, plant-based proteins can have fiber and are lower in saturated fat. Swapping plant protein for animal protein is generally good for your pocket book also!
- Substitute grilled or baked seafood in place of some other protein food for dinner two times per week. Try fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, tuna, or sardines to help decrease inflammation in your body. Buying canned fish is a great budget-friendly option.
- Choose eggs–scrambled, hard boiled, however you’d like!–in place of processed meats like bacon and sausage for breakfast. You’ll avoid a load of sodium!
2) Swap your dairy
- Choose low-fat and fat-free versions of milk, yogurt, and cheese.
- Make a Southern classic like mac-n-cheese smarter with low-fat milk and cheese. Toss in some vegetables for bonus nutrients!
- Try sweetening plain non-fat or low-fat yogurt with different types of fruits or whole grain cereals.
3) Swap your fats
- Looking for healthier fats? Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fat and have a creamy texture that can be added to everything from breakfast sandwiches to tacos. Nuts have healthy fats AND are a good source of protein! Try avocado on whole grain toast or a small handful of almonds next time you’re craving something you recognize is high in fat.
- Salad dressings can have hidden fat. Look for low-fat salad dressings or make your own at home with one part olive oil, one part balsamic vinegar, and a dash of pepper.
- Go for the light version of fatty condiments like mayonnaise or use a smaller amount of the regular version than you usually would. Better yet, try swapping mayo altogether for a low-fat condiment like mustard.
- Not all chocolates are created equal. Swap milk chocolate for dark chocolate (>60% cocoa) to cut the sugar and lower the fat. Dark chocolate also has flavonoids, a form of antioxidant. Remember that serving size matters. Choose to enjoy dark chocolate in a 1 ounce or less portion.
4) Swap your grains
- Trade refined grains like white rice and white bread for their smarter counterparts, brown rice and whole grain bread.
- Flour tortillas can be swapped for corn tortillas. Flour tortillas are often made with lard or vegetable shortening. Traditional corn tortillas, on the other hand, have two ingredients: masa harina, a very finely ground corn flour, and water. If you’re not making them at home, be sure to check the label at the store!
5) Try different fruits and vegetables
- Swap white potatoes for sweet potatoes for a boost in vitamin A.
- Be bold and make a pizza with a cauliflower crust. Cauliflower is high in vitamin C and potassium. Remember to use low-fat cheese!
- When was the last time you had a lychee? Star fruit? A fig? Mix up your fruit selection for a more exciting variety.
Check out more smart swaps here. What are some of your small swap goals for March?