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Nutrition Notes: March is National Nutrition Month

Karen Lentner, MA, RD, LDNKaren Lentner, MA, RD, LDNPersonalize Your Plate

National Nutrition Month is an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, celebrated in March every year. Its focus is on the benefits and importance of making informed food choices and healthful eating habits. This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month is “Personalize Your Plate.” The goal is for all of us to create a healthy eating plan based on our needs and preferences, and one that is realistic for each of us as individuals. We may know what we should eat and understand the importance of exercise, but how do we make it happen? Start by taking one realistic step at a time! 

Eating healthy doesn’t need to be complicated.

Eating healthy doesn’t need to be complicated. Plan and build your meals with a variety of foods, colors, and flavors. As we age, we often think we don’t need as much fluid, protein, or calories as we did when we were young. We may need less calories, however when it comes to fluids, fiber, or other nutrients, our bodies may actually need more. Eating a variety of foods from all food groups helps meet those needs. 

Try making half your plate fruits and vegetables as they add nutrients, texture and fiber to your diet. Set a goal of eating 2 or more cups of both fruits and vegetables every day. Select fruits that are fresh, dried, frozen or canned in 100% juice. Add fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables to main dishes, sides, or salads and choose colorful varieties prepared in healthful ways including steaming, roasting with olive oil, sautéeing, or eating them raw. If half your plate is fruits and vegetables, the other half should include lean protein and grains.

Protein is critical for muscle strength and cell repair, balance and preventing falls, and to help you recover from illness. Older adults need at least 6 to 8 ounces of protein daily, ideally from a variety of sources including fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, lean meats, dairy, and nuts. Many protein foods also contain vitamin B12, another necessary nutrient that may be absorbed less due to age or medications.

Pay attention to portion sizes. Whether you’re overweight or underweight, portion sizes matter. Personalize your plate and portion sizes based on what your needs are, with a goal of maintaining a healthy weight. Consider eating small frequent meals throughout the day instead of 3 large meals. 

Make at least half your grains whole grains by choosing breads, cereals, and pasta made with 100% whole grains. On food labels, look for 3 or more grams of fiber per serving. Excellent choices include whole grain bread and cereals, oatmeal, brown rice, popcorn, barley, lentils, and quinoa.

Select foods low in sugar and salt. Foods and drinks with added sugars or corn syrup solids add calories and minimal nutrients. Processed or pre-made foods are often higher in sugar and salt. Try preparing your own foods without added sugar and salt, using spices or herbs instead. 

Stay hydrated! Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, especially water and unsweetened beverages. Set a goal of 6 to 8 cups of fluid daily to prevent dehydration. If you’re feeling thirsty, you may already be dehydrated. 

Balance the food you eat with physical activity. Taking a walk or moving your body after a meal helps maintain a healthy weight and aids digestion.

Experiment with plant-based or vegetarian meals. Meatless meals are often flavorful and budget-friendly. Replace the meat or poultry in a recipe with beans, vegetables, and lentils, or other grains. Start with at least one meatless meal per week.

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO IMPROVE YOUR DIET! As we age, healthful eating has many benefits including increased energy and resistance to illness, decreased stress, and helping you look and feel your best both mentally and physically so you can better enjoy your life. Whether you want to gain or lose weight, lower your disease risk, or manage a chronic disease, speak with your doctor and consider a referral to a dietitian or nutritionist for help.

For information regarding Grab and Go Meals or Home Delivered Meals, contact LifePath at 413-773-5555.

RECIPE FOR ROASTED VEGETABLES

Ingredients:
*1 small onion, sliced
*1 sweet potato, small new potatoes, or combination of potatoes, leave skin on, cut into even-sized pieces, approx. an inch each
*2 carrots, peeled, cut up
*1 large beet, scrubbed and cut
*Brussels sprouts, cut in half
*Cauliflower cut into small pieces
*Broccoli cut into small pieces
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 tsp mixed dried herbs, such as rosemary, oregano, parsley, thyme, pepper, or garlic powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, lightly grease a baking sheet. Cut all vegetables into even-sized pieces, about an inch each. *Add or remove vegetables listed above, based on what you have available. Toss root vegetables with olive oil and herbs (salt and pepper optional). Spread in an evenly-spaced layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring and flipping vegetables twice. Cook until tender.