National Nutrition Month: Back to Basics

Basket full of bright vegetables.

Article by Michelle Reed, RD, CSP, LDN at Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.

March is National Nutrition Month. This year we encourage families to adopt a “back to basics” approach to healthy eating.

We’ve all been bombarded with media messages pushing the latest and greatest diet to follow. Did you know the weight loss industry is worth $66 billion? And it makes its money off flashy diet trends that are too restrictive to be either feasible or healthy long-term. Additionally, research has shown that dieting among adolescents is the strongest predictor of developing an eating disorder.

Free yourself and your family from dieting culture, and embrace a simple approach to eating healthier together using these tips.

Add Color to Your Plate
Including a fruit or a vegetable with every meal and snack is a great way to guarantee your family will eat a more nutritious diet. Fruits and vegetables are packed with fiber, which promotes a healthy weight and normal digestion.

Produce provide rich sources of phytonutrients, such as beta-carotene, which is associated with skin, bone, and immune health. They also have lycopene, which supports a healthy heart. Eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables ensures that your family takes in a wide variety of essential vitamins and minerals.

Choose Whole Grains More Often
Whole grains contain more fiber, protein, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. Consuming whole grains has been associated with a decreased risk of developing heart disease, colorectal cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

Including more whole grains in your diet can be as easy as making a pot of oatmeal for the family on a Sunday morning. Or try replacing white rice with brown rice or quinoa in the week’s dinner menu.

Sometimes choosing whole grains isn’t as simple. The bread and cereal aisles at the grocery store are full of great marketing, but not always the best nutrition to back it up. If you find this section of the grocery store confusing, simply focus on protein and fiber. Choose a bread or cereal that has one or two more grams of protein or fiber compared to what you usually purchase.

Prioritize Family Meals
Family meals are associated with healthier food choices. This includes a greater intake of fruits and vegetables, and decreased intake of soda, fried food, and red meat. But the benefits of family meals don’t stop at nutrition alone. Family meals may act as a rare time in the busy week to reconnect as a family. 

Commit to unplugging — ditching the TV, tablets, and smartphones — during family meals, so you can engage with one another fully and without distraction. Start with the achievable goal of adding one more family meal to the weekly schedule — whether that means dinner on the weekdays, or breakfast or lunch on the weekends.