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Embracing Nutrition for Life Beyond the Table

Have you ever considered how the food you eat affects your health and well-being? Our food choices play a huge role in determining how healthy we are now and in the future. That’s why March is National Nutrition Month, which means it’s a great time to think about making smart choices about food and developing healthy habits.

This year’s theme is “Beyond the Table,” which means we’re exploring how to make good food decisions whether at home, at a restaurant, or on the go. We’ll cover tips on cooking at home, making better choices when eating out, staying hydrated, reading food labels, and choosing healthier alternatives to junk food.

By the end of this article, you’ll have some great ideas for eating smarter and healthier. So, let’s get started!

Tips to Help You Make Healthy Decisions with Food

Get Cooking This March!

There is something special about homemade meals that goes beyond just the pleasant smells they create in your home. Cooking at home is one of the best choices you can make for your health. Why? Let’s break it down.

Think about the benefits of meal prepping. It is the perfect solution to the temptation of fast food on busy days. By dedicating some time each week to plan and prepare your meals, you are setting yourself up for success. This way, you control what goes into your food, ensuring it is healthy and tailored to your preferences.

Cooking at home also lets you decide how much you want to eat. Unlike restaurants that often serve huge portions, you can cook precisely the amount you need and avoid overeating. That’s a small but powerful step towards staying healthy.

Finally, let’s remember the balance of your meals. When you cook your food, you can create dishes with the right mix of nutrients—some protein, some carbs, and lots of veggies. This balance is not only good for your body but also makes you feel great.

Cooking at home is good for you and a fun way to try different flavors. So, why not put on your apron and get cooking in March? Your taste buds will thank you for it!

Eating Out and Being Healthy

While eating at home gives you more control of what you eat, eating out can be fun. It’s a chance to try something new, have a good time with friends, or give yourself a break from cooking. But if you’re trying to eat healthier, finding something on the menu that will support your goals can be challenging. Don’t worry, though! With some clever ordering, you can still chow down without all the extra calories.

First things first, let’s talk about picking what to eat. Look for grilled, baked, or steamed dishes when reading through the menu. These cooking methods usually use less oil and fat than frying, and they’re better for you. Plus, you can taste the natural flavors of the food better.

Watch out for sneaky dressings and sauces that add extra calories, sugar, and fat to your meals. But don’t worry, you can still enjoy them! Just ask for dressings and sauces on the side to control how much you add and savor the taste without overdoing it. 

When browsing the menu, keep in mind that the descriptions are meant to reel you in with words like “creamy,” “crispy,” or “smothered.” Just remember, these words usually mean more calories and less nutrition. Instead, look for menu items that use words like “fresh,” “light,” “roasted,” or “seasonal,” as they’re more likely to be healthier options.

Just because you’re eating out doesn’t mean you have to mess up your health goals. Just be smart about your choices and know what to order, and you can enjoy your meal without guilt. So go ahead, have fun, and eat up!

Understanding Nutrition Labels

Do you ever get confused while checking out the nutrition facts on the food package? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Decoding these labels is like deciphering a secret code that can help you choose healthier food options. Let’s break it down into simple steps to shop smarter and eat better.

  • Serving Size: This is where it all starts. The serving size tells you the amount of food the nutrition information covers. It’s essential because they base all the other numbers on the label on this amount. Always check the serving size, especially if you’re likely to eat more or less than what’s listed.
  • Calories: This number shows how much energy you get from one serving of food. If you’re watching your weight, keeping an eye on calories is key. But remember, not all calories are created equal—100 calories of vegetables pack a different nutritional punch than 100 calories of candy.
  • Sugar: Sugar can sneak up on you. Natural sugars in fruits and milk are one thing, but added sugars are what you want to watch out for. The American Heart Association suggests limiting added sugars because too much can lead to health issues like heart disease and obesity. So, when you see a high number following “Includes Added Sugars,” think twice.
  • Nutrient Content: The label also lists vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, like fiber and protein. Look for foods high in the good stuff—dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium are all nutrients many people don’t get enough of.

Knowing how to read nutrition labels is a powerful tool for making smarter food choices. It might take a little effort at first, but once you get the hang of it, you can pick healthier options. So, next time you do your grocery run, take a quick peek at those labels – your body will thank you!

Alternatives to Junk Food

Craving something crunchy, salty, or sweet doesn’t have to lead you down a path of unhealthy choices. Believe it or not, there are plenty of delicious and nutritious alternatives to your favorite junk foods that won’t leave you with eater’s remorse. Whether you’re in the mood for a quick snack or a satisfying treat, swapping out junk food for healthier options can be rewarding and tasty.

Junk FoodHealthier AlternativeWhy it’s Better
PopcornRoasted ChickpeasHigh in protein and fiber
Candy BarsDark ChocolateRich in antioxidants, lower in sugar
SodaSparkling WaterNo added sugars or artificial sweeteners
Ice CreamFrozen YogurtLower in fat and calories, can contain probiotics
Store-Bought CookiesHomemade Oatmeal CookiesControl over ingredients, can reduce sugar and add fiber

When you think of healthy food, you might think of bland, boring, or unsatisfying meals. But that’s not the case! You can still enjoy your favorite tastes while getting more nutrients and fewer unhealthy fats, sugars, and calories. Next time you’re craving junk food, try swapping it for one of these healthier options.

The Role Food/Nutrition Plays in Our Preventive Care

The fuel we choose makes all the difference when it comes to keeping our bodies running like well-oiled machines. Proper nutrition is not just about dodging illness in the short term; it lays the foundation for a lifetime of health and well-being.

Nutrition isn’t just about eating; it’s about correctly feeding every cell in your body. From the immune system to bones and muscles, what we eat determines how well these parts can perform their functions. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats supplies the nutrients our bodies need to maintain our immune system. This nutritional powerhouse helps us fend off colds and flu and plays a crucial role in preventing more severe conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

Beyond keeping unwelcome illnesses at bay, proper nutrition is essential for normal growth and development. This is especially true for children and adolescents, whose bodies need various nutrients to grow strong and healthy. But even in adulthood, maintaining a balanced diet helps ensure our bodies continue to regenerate and repair themselves as needed.

We all want to avoid the chronic disease monster. The good news is that many chronic diseases are preventable, and diet is one of the most significant factors under our control. By choosing foods high in nutrients and low in processed sugars and unhealthy fats, we can reduce our risk of developing these long-term health issues.

In short, your food does much more than satisfy hunger. It’s your body’s fuel source and nutrients, essential to your overall health and preventive care strategy. Making mindful food choices is a powerful way to protect and enhance your health today and well into the future.

How a healthier tomorrow starts today!

As we celebrate National Nutrition Month, we have learned the significance of informed food choices. Whether cooking at home, selecting from menu options while dining out, reading nutrition labels, or picking healthy snacks, every decision about our food directly impacts our health and well-being. We have also understood that a balanced diet provides energy for daily tasks and aids in preventive care by reducing the risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and others.

But understanding the impact of our food choices is just the beginning. It’s up to each of us to take proactive steps toward improving our nutrition. This means embracing the insights shared here and committing to continue learning and applying these principles daily. Consider this your invitation to take charge of your health, starting with the food you eat.

As we wrap up National Nutrition Month, remember the “Beyond the Table” theme. It’s a call to action for all of us to make healthier food choices that help our bodies, boost our health, and improve our lives. 

It is vital to have a yearly preventive checkup to monitor our bodies’ health. If you haven’t had one this year, schedule a visit with Catapult Health or request your VirtualCheckup Home Kit. You can also find out if you are covered for this service by speaking with your HR/Benefits leader at your organization.

Let’s take small steps towards a healthier future by making the right choices every time we eat. Remember, every meal counts, so let’s ensure we feed our health with every bite!

Clinically reviewed on March 28th, 2024 by Kristin Spain, FNP-BC.