It’s National Nutrition Month, and I’m going straight to the source: the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND)!
Making broad, sweeping changes to your habits and lifestyle can be daunting for anyone, let alone anyone who’s busy in a business or caring for a family. The key is making small changes that lead to big results — and then keep taking baby steps in that way, rather than making a few changes and calling it “done.” And if you can inject a little fun into the mix as well, all the better!
When asked “are you doing all that you can to achieve balanced nutrition and a healthy diet?” nearly half of Americans say “yes!” But the AND says otherwise, since the rates of obesity, diabetes and other nutrition-related health concerns continue to rise steadily.
Do you think you’re doing all you can? Here are some ideas to help you, your family and your clients improve nutrition every day, just one baby-bite at a time.
To encourage my kids to eat more colorfully, I made a rainbow of construction paper, laminated for wear and tear. Each time they BOTH eat a color at any meal, they earn that strip of the rainbow. It’s important in my family to make it a team effort – but do what works in your world. A full rainbow earns a special NON-FOOD treat.
Plan your menus around various cultural traditions. If the kids are studying ancient Rome in school, have an Italian night! Maybe there’s a particular ethnicity in your background — research the recipes! You can even make a game of it by letting each person spin a globe with eyes closed, then stop it and point to any spot. Wherever it lands, cook up a recipe from that country’s tradition. Who knows what you can discover that way?
Making your food choices fit your lifestyle is critical. It makes no sense at all for someone who’s crazy busy to expect himself/herself to whip up a gourmet 4-course meal every evening. Get realistic about your limits first, and then figure out how to make healthy choices in that framework.
- Strapped for time? Look for bagged salad mixes with all the fixings included (watch that dressing, though!). Find single-serve packs of hummus, veggie sticks, tuna, or mixed nuts. Of course, fresh fruits and veggies are nature’s original convenience foods, neatly wrapped and all. Make up a few healthy things when you have time, and pack them in small containers that are ready to go at a moment’s notice.
- More time than cash? Think old-fashioned — the kind of foods your grandparents might have liked. Dried beans are a nutritional powerhouse for pennies per serving. Throw them in the crock pot and you’ve solved two issues at once — it takes no time and very little money. Again, fresh fruits and veggies come into play. Look around the produce section for things that catch your eye, look fresh, and spark your imagination. Then do a quick search-by-ingredient for recipes to use it.
- Too many cooks in the kitchen? If you’re cooking for a family/group with many different preferences, aim to have one main dish plus a side item that suits each. Then — here’s what’s easier said than done — don’t back down when the whining starts. Call a team huddle and explain that healthy eating means trying new things, so the expectation is for everyone to try everything (at least one “no thank you” bite). It will be tough at first, but if you stick to your new rule, everyone will get used to it in a few days. And remind them that they’re getting at least one favorite on their plates!
Now, you know I can’t resist a little reminder to get up and move in addition to all the great foods you’re eating, right? With springtime on the way in our part of the world, it’s a perfect time to start taking a short walk after a meal. It doesn’t have to be after dinner, either — consider breakfast, lunch, or a snack as your cue to take a lap around the block! Or, again, make a game of it and get everyone playing. Have you seen Spin-Fit yet?
How are you making small changes for big results?
What have you learned so far?