March is National Nutrition Month. First established by Eat Right, by the Academy of Nutrition And Dietetics, National Nutrition Month is a time to reflect upon our eating habits, and whether we've been fuelling our bodies with the right stuff – or cramming a couple Pop Tarts in our mouths before our shifts each morning.
If you'd like to get involved in National Nutrition Month, and are passionate about eating right, good for you! Visit the Eat Right homepage for helpful resources, useful social media tools, and plenty of knowledge to help you spread the word.
If you're pressed on time and are just curious about simple steps you can take during March to improve your eating habits, read on – even the busiest nurse can benefit from our list of 5 easy steps towards healthier eating habits.
- Eat Those Fruits And Veggies! Seriously!
Fruits and vegetables are like, insanely good for you. They're loaded with minerals, vitamins, and nutrients that you need for a healthy body. And here's the best part – by weight, most fruits and vegetables contain about 4x fewer calories than grains, starches, and meats! That means you get to eat more – and who doesn't love that?
It may be daunting to try to eat your daily recommended 9 servings of fruit and vegetables per day – but you should do your best to work toward that number.
Start simply. Eat a banana with breakfast. Bring an apple with lunch. Stir-fry some cabbage at dinner – just make sure that you are eating a piece of fruit or some vegetables with every meal.
Or, you can try the "50 percent" rule. Look at your plate when you're eating, and make sure that at least half of the plate is covered in fruits and veggies – of your choice! If it is, you're likely getting plenty of delicious, nutritious veggie goodness – and improving your health to boot!
- Drop That Soda!
This may be tough for some of you – but there are fewer things that are less nutritionally helpful than fully-loaded, sugary sodas. They're essentially just sugar-water, and they'll spike your glycemic index, fill you up with calories, and then still leave you hungry.
Think about this – the average can of Coke has 39 grams of sugar. That's the equivalent of drinking 10 teaspoons of high-fructose corn syrup right from the bottle. Sugary drinks increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and a myriad of other conditions.
What about diet soda? Well, you're in luck. If you love Diet Coke, you're probably just fine – there are no signs that aspartame and other FDA-approved artificial sweeteners are harmful.
So if you can't drop soda entirely, at least consider diet – your health (and your waistline!) will thank you.
- Buy Minimally Processed Foods
As a rule of thumb, processed foods are higher in preservatives and sodium, and lower in healthful nutritional content like vitamins and minerals. Buying minimally processed foods as much as possible will allow you to get more nutritional value out of your dollar.
So instead of frozen, prepackaged meals, go for fresh fruits, steamable vegetables, lean meats, and natural grains. You'll save money, and you'll be making a better choice for your body
- Don't Get Too Snacky!
Snacking can be a huge issue for your nutritional health. Snacking constantly means you're always taking in more calories than you need – and most "snack foods" are far from nutritionally sound.
You should avoid things like chips, pretzels, and candy – these items are high in carbohydrates and sugars, and do little to satisfy your cravings, or tide you over until your next meal.
Instead, turn to foods that digest slowly and pack a nutritional punch – options like low-fat Greek yogurt, granola bars, and fresh fruits are a great choice, as they have more fiber and protein than traditional "snack foods".
- Let Yourself Indulge Every Once In A While
You don't have to be good all of the time. In fact, adhering too strictly to your diet is going to make you go crazy – you'll be thinking about the donuts that are left in the break room all day!
Here's a good mantra. Take everything in moderation – even moderation! That means that, if you've been eating well all day and want a slice of cake, you can have it. Just know your limits, and understand that you're giving yourself a treat – not an everyday meal.
Great nutrition is about forming habits. If you've formed healthy, nutritious eating habits, one slice of cake, one donut, or one soda isn't going to throw you off – so feel free to indulge when you feel like you want to!
Follow These Five Steps Towards A Better You!
These simple steps are easy enough for even the busiest nurses to follow. By eating your fruits and veggies, ditching soda, eating non-processed foods, snacking smartly, and indulging occasionally, you can improve your health and wellbeing – and maybe even shed a couple pounds along the way!
So follow these steps, learn more about National Nutrition Month and your health at Eatright.org, and enjoy the many benefits of a balanced, nutritious, and healthy diet today.