March is National Nutrition Month! With the theme “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” this month is all about the small ways you can make good food choices and take control of your health. While a new health and nutrition routine can seem daunting at first, focusing on these simple tips can make a big difference.
Check serving sizes. Reading nutrition labels and understanding the ingredients and serving size of your food will make you more aware of what – and how much – you’re consuming. Note that if you eat two servings, you are getting double the calories and the daily value of nutrients. Purchase a small kitchen scale or use measuring cups and spoons to make sure you’re sticking with a true serving size.
Watch the sugar. Sugar can be sneaky, and it can show up under a variety of names, such as sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup, and fructose. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar to 36 grams (9 teaspoons) a day for men, and 25 grams (6 teaspoons) a day for women. Count your grams, and make sure added sugar is not one of the first few ingredients on an ingredient list.
Use smaller plates. When pouring cereal, dishing out the main course, or scooping up your favorite snack, use a smaller plate or bowl. This can cause you to subconsciously take smaller portions and consume fewer calories. Some studies have found that reducing your plate size by half can lead to an average 30% reduction in the amount of food consumed.
Take time to digest. After you finish your plate, wait 20 minutes before getting seconds. It takes your brain that long to recognize that you’re actually full. Sit back, digest, then reevaluate whether you’re truly hungry for more.
Eat at home. Restaurants are often known to serve large portions, and – unless nutritional information is provided – it can be difficult to know what ingredients went into the meal and how it was prepared. As a result, it can be easy to consume your total daily caloric needs in just one restaurant meal. Instead, make an effort to cook more meals at home, and try to limit eating out to once a week. These heart-healthy recipes can get you started.
Do a clean sweep. Pick a weekend to look through your refrigerator and pantry and get rid of junk food. Look for chips, cookies, cheese dips, and other processed foods. You’ll find that if your trigger foods aren’t in the house, you won’t be tempted.
Prepare to eat healthy. To help make healthy choices when you are tempted, keep vegetables on hand for quick snacking. Pre-wash, chop, and portion them for the week in ready-to-grab containers. You’ll make healthier decisions and you’ll increase your vegetable consumption.
By making informed food choices, you can improve your health every day and with every meal. For more tips on how to put your best fork forward, talk to a YMCA certified personal trainer or nutritionist.
Happy National Nutrition Month!
Your friends at the YMCA
Nutrition expertise at the YMCA
Casey Spence and Pamela Cook, RDN, are helping members at the Littleton Family YMCA live healthy. The two dietary professionals are here to provide nutrition counseling, lead classes in healthy cooking and meal planning, and share helpful nutrition tips that can improve your overall health. If you’re struggling to meet your fitness goals, or you just want to start eating better, learn more about the Y’s nutrition programs, and look for regular YMCA emails on Healthy Eating at the Y.