It’s March, National Nutrition Month — how are you celebrating? Many Americans think of this month as one dedicated to the Irish, but for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it’s the month devoted to highlighting the important role of healthful eating and physical activity to manage weight and prevent chronic disease. This year, NNM’s theme is ”Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right,” as consumer research has confirmed that taste overrides nutrition as the main reason why one food item is purchased over another.
Social, economic, emotional, and health factors play a role in consumers’ food choices, but the foods people enjoy are likely the ones they eat most. That’s why the focus for this year’s NNM is on how to combine taste and nutrition to create healthy meals that follow the Dietary Guidelines recommendations. Are you ready to jump start your own celebration of NNM? Here are six easy ways you can make March your healthiest month yet.
1. Meal-planning March
Make March the month that you commit to meal planning and preparation. Studies show that when consumers already have prepped, healthy meals on hand, they’re less likely to give in to the pressure of the drive-thru after work or succumb to frozen food cravings. In addition, when you plan to eat at home, you have more control over the ingredients in your meals. Many restaurant meals contain ingredients that we don’t know (and don’t want to know about), but cooking your own food ensures that you know exactly what is going into your mouth and your family’s mouths. You can also control serving size when you eat at home, which is something consumers often struggle with when they eat out or consume prepackaged dishes.
This month, pick a day each week to schedule what you will have for dinner (and even lunch) each day. That way, you can go to the grocery store with a list in hand and you can even get ahead on food prep if time allows. Pick three or four dishes to make for the week and then decide what days you’ll have leftovers. This ensures that no food goes to waste, and you’ll save yourself time, money, and energy.
2. Practice healthy habits: Break the fast in March
You’ve heard time and time again that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but have you finally given in to waking up in time to eat breakfast before work? Many have not and still consider their first cup of coffee their morning meal, leading to overeating later on. This month, make a commitment to eating breakfast and starting your metabolism early. It’s an easy habit to form, and in the name of National Nutrition Month, you have no excuse not to start now.
Need some easy breakfast ideas to start you off? Try one of these easy recipes for oatmeal. The days are getting longer and summer is on its way, so you might as well enjoy your hot breakfasts while you can.
3. Match your water requirements in March
Another health goal you can focus on this month? Drinking the suggested amount of water that is required to keep your body functioning. The Institute of Medicine says that an adequate intake of water for men is roughly three liters, or thirteen cups; for women it’s 2.2 liters, or nine cups. However, very few men and women actually consume those amounts. That’s an issue, considering every system in our bodies depends on water — luckily, it’s an easy fix: Drink more water! The Mayo Clinic suggests the easiest way to track water intake and ensure you’re drinking enough is to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day (all fluids count toward the daily total).
Invest in a reusable water bottle this month and work on refilling it several times a day: twice in the morning, twice in the afternoon, twice in the evening, and twice at night. Sure, you will be using the restroom a lot, but soon you’ll form a habit and your body will even benefit from the increased exercise to the lavatory.
4. March into your best recipe
The next tip for an easy way to celebrate National Nutrition Month in March is the perfection of your favorite healthy recipe. Every cook (faux or real) should have one perfected dish in his or her arsenal that will impress guests, and this is the month to find yours. March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb: By the end of this month, heavy comfort meals will be no more. Find a fish dish that you want to perfect for your friends who aren’t eating meat on Fridays or simply one that is light enough to get you ready for swimsuit season. The days are getting longer, and that gives you more time in the kitchen. Perfect your dishes before it gets warm and before you would rather be outside.
Here’s a recipe from Health.com that’s perfect for any fish lover to try. At just 323 calories per serving, this salmon is the perfect dinner for any day of the week — it even incorporates bourbon, which you can consider an ode to St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons bourbon
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon grated and peeled fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets
- cooking spray
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
Combine first seven ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add fish to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 1.5 hours, turning occasionally.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fish and marinade to pan; cook fish 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, or until desired degree of doneness. Place one fillet on each of four plates; drizzle each serving with about 2 teaspoons of sauce. Sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon green onions and 3/4 teaspoon sesame seeds.
5. Set your spring fitness goal
Next, put a focus on fitness this month. Yes, it’s no longer January, when every American is flocking to the gym, but it’s March and the seasons are turning. It’s time to plot your spring fitness goal now. It doesn’t matter what kind of goal you want to take on this month — just challenge yourself with something. Nothing provides more impetus to get to the gym than an exercise calendar that details what you need to do each day to achieve your goals, and it’s never too late to start.
Now that spring is right around the corner, consider signing up for an outdoor running race (recreational or competitive) — perhaps one that benefits a charity. Not into running? Challenge yourself to sign up for CrossFit for a month. Prefer group exercise? Take one Les Mills a class every week for the entire spring season. Now that the temperatures will soon warm up, you have no reason to hibernate in your warm home. Use National Nutrition Month as the motivation you need to get active so you can be in shape by the time summer (finally) rolls around.
6. Kick one unhealthy habit
Lastly, seize the opportunity during National Nutrition Month to cut out one unhealthy habit in March. We all have our vices, whether it be an addiction to caffeine, soda, coffee, chewing gum, or chocolate, but there’s no reason to give them up all at once. Kick just one unhealthy habit this month and see how much better you feel. Cutting out all of your vices at once is intimidating, but going caffeine-free for the month or committing to water over soda? That’s something you can most definitely do.