Start Your New Diet Now: National Nutrition Month

It’s my favorite month of the year! Okay, second favorite, after August (my birth month). March marks National Nutrition Month and as a nutrition student and enthusiastic foodie, I love having an entire month dedicated to something I am so passionate about.

As a student, I am continually cultivating new skills and learning how best to navigate the world of health and nutrition. This also makes me hyper-aware of how difficult it is to navigate the nutritional landscape in 2019. For our readers; I hope that this article will serve as a helpful resource for anyone looking to improve their nutrition starting with National Nutrition Month.

Why is nutrition so important anyway?

Cardiovascular disease. Cancer. Diabetes. What do these conditions all have in common? Besides being some of the leading causes of death in our country, they all correlate with a poor diet. These correlations are undeniable; there are countless studies showing that poor nutrition is directly related to many diseases in the modern landscape.

From hypertension to gout with a laundry list of dangerous diseases in between, everyday dietary choices seep into our wellbeing. And while great nutrition isn’t a special elixir for every ailment, it is a sure way to decrease your odds of developing some prevalent diseases. And the coolest part? You have the power to change and improve your diet! Yes, you! All on your own!

While I’m not going to dedicate this article to all of the benefits of a healthy diet (we’d be here a while), I am going to try and outline some ways for you to incorporate some of the obvious health foods (read: fruits and vegetables) into your diet. I’ll also go over how to eliminate some unhealthy foods (read: processed junk) from your daily menu.

Where Can I Start?

Naturally, after learning that changes in your diet can help combat fatal diseases, you’re itching to know how you can take steps to improve your diet. Right? If this is the case with you then rest assured—you came to the right place. There are countless resources out there to help you start making strides towards a healthy, full and delicious diet. I’ll leave a few resources at the end of the article for your further reading, but I also wanted to provide some of my favorite tips for getting more fruits and veggies into your everyday diet.

Start Incorporating Salads into Your Diet

I recently read that John Legend has a salad with every meal. Crazy? Not in my book! Not only is he meeting the minimum serving of greens we should be getting each day, but he is also providing a reminder that salads are easy to make, tasty and a great way to work towards our daily vitamin and mineral requirements. So, maybe you don’t want to have a salad with breakfast (honestly, me neither), but just incorporating a side salad into your dinner and/or lunch menu is a great way to increase the number of greens you eat per day. You may even want to take this tip to the next level and make a whole meal consisting of one big, luscious salad. Sign me up!

My favorite thing about salads? Well, to be totally honest, I have a lot of favorites. But my favorite for the sake of this article is that salads are a great, easy and healthy option for meal prepping. Which brings us to our next point:

Start Prepping Your Meals

You have probably seen meal prepping everywhere lately. Is meal prepping actually a worthwhile ritual to get into? Yes. Meal prepping is everywhere for a reason and I think (hope) it’s here to stay!

Meal prepping takes time at the start of a week, with the goal of saving time (and money!!) throughout the week. An added bonus is that meal prepping may be able to save your health in the long term. I take time on Sunday or Monday evenings to make a grain snack, prepare veggies and pack salads for the week.

Here are a few of my favorite easy meal preps:

  • Salads
  • Power Bowls (Grain + Protein + Vegetables)
  • Wraps
  • Taco Salads
  • Pasta Salads (Yes, salads again! It’s not cheating—this one has pasta!)
  • Any (healthy, of course!) bulk recipe your heart desires (stir-fries, pasta with vegetables, etc.)

Eliminate Unhealthy Options from Your Diet

We all know our bodies better than anyone else. I know I can’t have easy access to Flaming Hot Cheetos or a gallon of ice cream because I will overindulge. Maybe you have an addiction to Marie Callender’s Chicken Pot Pies (I swear I’m not projecting) or frozen meat lover’s pizzas. And while I’m not an advocate for depriving yourself, I am an advocate for eliminating things that 1) don’t make you feel good 2) make it hard for you to make good decisions and 3) have negative long-term health impacts. I find that if I don’t have temptations at home (the majority of the time), then it makes it easier for me to make the right choices. This ties nicely into my next point:

Practice Proper Grocery Shopping Preparation

A very common suggestion is to make a grocery list before you go shopping and to stick to it. This is beneficial not just from a health perspective but also from a financial standpoint! The reason is simple; when you make a list ahead of time you are less distracted by the lure of the processed food aisles or the strategically located end cap with your favorite junk food. Not today processed foods! Not today. We are here with a healthy shopping list and we’re sticking to it!

In addition to a shopping list, I recommend always eating before you head to the grocery store. I’m sure you’ve been to the store hungry before. And while sometimes it can’t be avoided, we all know how the story goes. You buy everything that you’ve ever been curious to try and then some. Don’t fall into this trap! Have a snack or meal before heading to the grocery store.

Lastly, avoid aisles you don’t need to walk through. There’s less temptation to buy junk food when you can’t see it. I try to stick to the periphery of a grocery store – that’s where you find most of the produce and fresher items. After hitting up the produce sections, I do stop into a few aisles. If I don’t have to drop into the cookie or chip aisle – I don’t. Just like keeping these options out of your home, keeping them out of your view keeps them out of your cart—and out of your precious body!

Smart Snacking

As my mom likes to say, people get “peckish” throughout the day. What she means by this is that we want to snack after enough time has passed. Yes, I love to snack with the best of them. What this doesn’t mean is that I have to sacrifice health every time I am looking for a midday treat. The easiest (and most obvious) healthy snack to have is fruit. My fruit intake starts at breakfast (usually with a banana, blueberries or an apple), but it can be difficult to incorporate fruit into your lunch or dinner. This is why fruit one of my favorite snacks—it’s easy and I can’t forget about it at meal time if I’ve already had my servings for the day!

A bowl of carrots next to a bowl of hummus, prepared by Allison.
Some carrots and hummus I prepared for a snack in just a few minutes.

The other big category of healthy snacks is, you guessed it, vegetables! Unlike fruit, vegetables aren’t quite as easy to eat without prep, or enjoy on their own. But here are a few great ways to snack on some vegetables (fair warning—some meal prep is required):

  • Carrots (or peppers, cucumbers, etc.) and hummus
    • My family’s favorite healthy snack!
  • Roasted brussels sprouts – these bad boys taste good warm or cold
  • Roasted beets
  • Side salads loaded with vegetables! (Salads again? Yeah, I went there!)
  • Kale Chips
  • Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Nutrition Month Tips Recap

Eating healthy isn’t always easy, but National Nutrition Month is here to remind us about the importance of making good dietary choices! There are plenty of scare tactics and other ways to try and educate the public on good dieting, but I am passionate about bringing the fun into functional and sustainable healthy eating.

If even just one of these tips is beneficial to you, I will be delighted! I want everyone to have a great diet (and to make that diet as tasty as possible). If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me and we can chat!

Happy National Nutrition Month, everyone!

Additional Resources:

National Nutrition Month: Resources

Health Effects of Limited Access to Healthy Food

Meal Prepping Source

United States Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate

Written by Allison Anderson

Allison has been working for Oswald's since 2007. A 6th generation member of the Wickel-Oswald-Kester-Anderson family, Allison focuses on natural & organic products, social media, and online promotions. Allison graduated with a BA in Telecommunications from Indiana University Bloomington in 2013, minoring in Marketing. After graduating from IU, Allison worked at SAP Fieldglass as a Business Analyst. A graduate of Naperville North High School in 2009, Allison currently lives in Naperville and is attending classes at the University of Illinois at Chicago, studying Nutrition.