March is National Nutrition Month, a great opportunity to reassess our relationship with food and commit to making better food choices. There is a lot of advice for how we should eat, and it can get overwhelming. We know we should eat enough — but not too much — fat, protein and carbohydrates. And we know that we should be getting our full complement of vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients.
Here are a few tips to eat healthier without using a scale or counting calories (although it can be good to occasionally log our meals to recalibrate as needed):
- Make plants the star of the plate. Studies continue to show the benefits of eating a plant-based diet, from lowering risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, to increasing life expectancy and happiness.
- Eat the rainbow. Many of the micronutrients we need — vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals — are associated with distinctive colors. For example, beta carotene gives foods like carrots, pumpkins and apricots an orange color. Beta carotene gets converted to vitamin A, which contributes to our skin and eye health and supports our immune systems. Choosing a rainbow of fruits and vegetables helps ensure we get a variety of micronutrients to support our health.
- Slow down and savor your meal. It takes 20 minutes for our brains to register the chemicals that tell us we are full. When we're hungry, it's easy to eat quickly and potentially overeat. By slowing down and savoring the appearance, smells and tastes of our food, we give our brains time to catch up.
- Hydrate. We need fluids to maintain our health and the functions of our body's systems. Staying hydrated helps our hearts pump blood through our bodies, our muscles work more efficiently and our food digest to maximize nutrient absorption. Drink water throughout the day, not just during meals. You'll feel more energized and it may help you feel more satiated between meals.
By the Natural Gourmet Center at the Institute of Culinary Education