Make every bite count this Nutrition Month
Allison Koonce, LMH Health
March is Nutrition Month and it is a great time to focus on what fuels your body. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture released new recommendations this year to help you make healthy choices and make every bite count.
The new dietary guidelines have four main components. The first component encourages healthy dietary patterns at every life stage from infancy through adulthood. Recommendations for infants and toddlers have been included in the guidelines for the first time since 1985.
Cora Koch, a maternity navigator at LMH Health, shared that the guidelines point out that it is never too early or too late to make healthy food choices.
“The best way to get healthy eating off to a great start is to feed infants breast milk for their first year of life,” she said.
The second component points out that a healthy dietary pattern can benefit everyone. The new dietary guidelines provide a framework that individuals can customize and enjoy food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions and budgetary considerations.
Lacy Enyart, LMH Health social worker, knows budget constraints can drive food purchases. She recommends individuals use the Douglas County Food Resources for information on area food banks and food resources to help your budget go further. She also wants the community to know the Just Food Cruising Cupboard is on-site at both LMH Health Campuses. The Cruising Cupboard is at the Main Campus, 325 Maine, on the second Thursday of each month from 4:30 – 5:30 pm and at the West Campus, 6265 Rock Chalk Drive, on the third Wednesday of each month from 10:30 – 11:30 am. Anyone who qualifies for food assistance through Just Food can utilize the Cruising Cupboard.
The third component focuses on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages, while staying within calorie limits. Nutrient-dense foods and beverages provide vitamins, minerals, and have little added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. The elements that make up a healthy dietary pattern include: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy, protein foods and healthy oils, so be sure to include more of these into your day. It can be overwhelming to know where to start. A great resource is myplate.gov, where you can get a personalized eating plan and healthy recipes.
Limiting foods and beverages high in added sugars, saturated fat, sodium, and limiting alcoholic beverages is the fourth component of the guidelines. A healthy dietary pattern doesn’t have much room for these, but a small amount can be added to nutrient-dense foods and beverages. Try to decrease or avoid sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks and sweetened coffees. Instead of these beverages, try drinking sparkling water or add fruit to water to increase flavor.
It can be difficult to know where to start when making changes to your eating pattern. One suggestion is to begin with small changes you can stick with over time. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that you don’t have to completely eliminate certain foods or beverages, but begin by adding healthy options into your existing eating pattern. Try adding more vegetables to your pizza, add vegetables or fruits to sandwiches, add fruit to cereal or ice cream, or switch one soda for water.
It’s also important to be aware of portion size and know the difference between a serving and a portion. According to the American Academy of Dietetics, a serving is a standardized amount of food. A portion size is the amount of a food you choose to eat — which may be more or less than a serving.
”When watching portion sizes, it is not always easy to measure out an exact amount,” said Aynsley Anderson-Sosinski, a nurse with LMH Health Workplace Wellness. Use the following references for estimating recommended serving sizes.
- An adult fist is about 1 cup, an appropriate portion for raw or cooked vegetables or fruit.
- A small handful measures about ½ cup, which is a serving size for grains, pasta, and rice.
- The size of a palm of an average adult’s hand, is close to a 3 ounce portion of fish, chicken, beef and other meats.
- The size of a thumb measures about 1 tablespoon, which is an appropriate portion size for peanut butter or other nut spreads.”
Making small, sustainable changes to your eating pattern can help you improve your nutrition and your overall health. Remember that consistency is key and that overtime, with smart choices, you can improve your health and quality of life.
Allison Koonce is the community outreach and engagement supervisor at LMH Health.