This March is National Nutrition Month so…

Make it a responsibility to have healthier eating habits


USDA/Dept. of Health and Human Services

Graph showing the majority of the US population who are blow their daily intake of fruits and vegetables

Here is food for thought you might want to consider: Most of us tend to push the mental calculation of our nutrient intake to the backs of our minds as long as the food we consume satisfies our hunger. “More than 80% of Americans’ diets are low in vegetables, fruits and dairy, according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” reads an article from Livestrong.
In another study, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020”, international organizations joined forces and presented an agenda, which highlighted how hunger isn’t the only issue to be considered, but that the necessity of taking measures to ensure that the world’s population can access food that meets the nutritional standards is as well. March, being National Nutrition Month, serves as an appropriate time to remind everyone that keeping track of nutrients from the food we eat should be a priority. Also keep in mind that because this month encourages us to remember the importance of receiving the proper nutrition, we should consistently discipline ourselves to make better food choices, and incorporate that into daily life. While this is significant, further research from the scientific review of March 2021, the Healthy Eating TABLE, emphasizes how each life stage calls for a different dietary plan, as well as how a given individual would be better off “choosing foods based on overall nutrient density.” The concept pretty much explains itself: getting into the habit of eating healthier requires experience, motivation, commitment then failure and patience. Perhaps that perseverance hasn’t yet sparked in those who keep trying but keep going back to the same old habits. Each person is different, especially when it comes to what they each eat. Douglas Wood, a nutrition professor at Cañada College shared a simplified version of his advice in the form of the acronym ABC-VM, which could help serve as a guide to a balanced nutrition: ● Adequacy: “Since the start of the pandemic, I have seen many students have suffered and may be eating a diet without adequate vitamin and mineral content,” Wood said. “This makes studying difficult and can lead to long term health problems. If students are short of money please encourage students to make use of SparkPoint.” Here are links to SparkPoint for the College of San Mateo, Cañada College, and Skyline College. ● Balance: “One of the key areas of nutrition is balance. A simple way to balance your diet is to aim for 50% of your calories to come from carbohydrates, with half of that coming from complex carbohydrates like whole grains. Then 25% of your calories from fats, especially heart healthy oils. Finally, around 25% of your calories should come from proteins, especially lean meats, soy products, beans, and fish.” ● Calories: “The one thing everyone is told is ’watch your calories’, yet this advice is probably the least helpful. Most people quickly tire of counting calories. I suggest paying attention to serving sizes, and using the Japanese philosophy of ’Hara hachi bu’, from the longest-lived people in the world on the island of Okinawa. It means ’eat until you are 80% full.’” ● Variety: “My personal favorite. Current scientific advice supports a diet high in variety. … Try foods from different cultures, try something new!” ● Moderation: “Certainly this is an important consideration, and difficult for us all. The three top foods to moderate are added sugars, like those found in breakfast cereals (not the sugars in fruits, which are very healthy); saturated fats (think of any solid fats like coconut oil or beef fats); and lastly salt — Most of my students discover their diets are high in salt. High salt is one of the most common issues with foods, particularly processed foods, in the United States.” However, the habits that the busy schedules of college students and people who work full-time jobs result in may also interfere with reaching those goals. These habits include things like skipping meals and resorting to highly-processed ready-to-eat products because they are not time-consuming. Some may only have enough time to cook their own meals once or every other week. Personally, I think it is all about good practice of time management when it comes down to hunting down groceries and preparing your meals. When I had the chance to speak to Gil Perez, a personal counselor from the College of San Mateo, he shared his own insight concerning what he has typically been eating throughout the course of the pandemic. His back-to-back virtual meetings keep him from cooking his own food, so he usually orders takeout from various restaurants. He also told me about a juicer he has acquired, which has made part of his diet more enjoyable. Having it motivates him to buy lots of different kinds of fruit to make juice from when he goes to the grocery store.
According to Perez, striking a balance between the various foods you eat is important, and whatever you consume will have an effect on your mood. Caffeine, for example, might make you feel more energetic, or more anxious. But he emphasized that he is not in a position to make recommendations about his client’s eating habits. When you are eating the right food in the right proportions, your body benefits from all the right vitamins and minerals it receives, which could help you perform better and save you from costs and casualties in the long-term. Eating healthy reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. In the United States, unhealthy diets are the leading causes of death, poor quality of life, disabilities and loss of independence. Adapting these habits is not a punishment for having developed past bad habits. On the contrary, I think eating new kinds of food is fun, and a wonderful opportunity to discover what works sustainably for you. Since this National Nutrition Month’s theme is “Personalize Your Plate”, the concept effectively shows off the versatility, diversity and varied benefits of food through customization and arrangement on the plate. If you are feeling lost about what to eat, and want to know more about how to keep track of your nutrient intake, offers tips and suggestions about planning your diet, and can help connect you to a dietitian or nutritionist near you.