March is National Nutrition Month! During the month, dietitians invite everyone to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthy eating and physical activity habits. One of the topics for the month is: eat a variety of nutritious foods every day!
How many of you get stuck in a rut when it comes to planning meals! How many of you have had a conversation similar to this?
“What should we have for supper tonight?”
“I don’t know, what do you want?”
Likely, we all have!
Here are some fun activities to help you break out of that rut and to follow the advice to eat a variety of nutritious foods.
Make Food Alphabets
I challenge you to take time with whomever you plan meals for and with to brainstorm and ask Google or Alexa or Siri to help you create these lists. This is fun to do when you’re on a boring car ride or during dinner conversation.
What you do:
- Title four sheets of paper with the following words each: Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Protein.
- Write the letters of the alphabet down the left-hand side of each sheet of paper.
- You’ve got it! Think of at least one example of each of these for each letter of the alphabet.
If you’re thinking this isn’t possible, you’re right. There are some tricky letters like Q, U, X, Y, and Z, but you might be surprised! That’s where Google comes in handy. Luckily, for other letters, you will be able to think of multiple options and that’s OK. The more the better!
The beauty of doing this is that it reminds us of the enormous variety there is in the world of foods. Also, with 26 letters in the alphabet, you don’t have to repeat foods very often if you challenge yourself to try a different one every day.
After you’ve done this, take a look at how many of these are available in our local grocery stores. Step out of your comfort zones and try something new! Look up recipes on how to prepare them. Talk about them with other people. We can learn from one another!
If you thought those lists were fun, there’s more! Remember there is variety in the ways we can flavor foods by using herbs, spices, and healthy fats. Finally, let’s not forget the cooking methods we use to prepare foods - we can bake, broil, grill, steam, braise, roast, air fry, poach and the list goes on.
Why is variety important? The short answer is because no food is perfect. Every food has a different profile of nutrients: carbs, fat, protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are all important for our health and eating a variety of foods helps ensure that we get all of the nutrients that we need to stay healthy. Finally, remember that whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fresh meat give us the biggest bang, for our nutrition buck! They are low in sodium and contain the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants naturally, in the proportions we need. They don’t contain preservatives and other additives.
Eating a variety of nutritious foods takes the guesswork out of how to eat healthily, but if you have questions and want help to make a plan that is right for you, please see a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. We’re the nutrition experts who are happy to help!