National Nutrition Month is a nutrition campaign celebrated annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.
Personalize Your Plate
This year’s theme, “Personalize Your Plate” highlights that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition and health. We are all unique with different bodies, goals, background and tastes! I love the theme this year because it was only as a junior in college entering the field of nutrition that I discovered that I didn’t have to eat animal protein. You know the trend right now — “I was ______ age when I discovered…”. Well, for me, I was 20 years old when I realized I didn’t have to obtain my protein from foods that I didn’t ultimately love. I went too many years eating foods just because I thought I had to. Little did I know that entering this field of nutrition would help me to realize that my nutritional needs could be met without having to include proteins I didn’t like! (It took and still takes not only education but also careful planning.) My hope as a dietitian is that I’m able to show people that they can fill their plates with the foods that they love — whether it’s because of a taste preference or whether it’s a cultural preference — food is so much more than just fuel. We should all be Personalizing Our Plates since we are all different and unique!
And as a side note, it’s why I often prefer to not put a label (if you will) on myself as to how I eat. For many years I was a lacto-ovo-vegetarian, meaning I would predominantly eat plant proteins along with dairy and eggs. However, in the last 5 years or so I began including seafood. So technically that would make me, by labels, a pescatarian. The truth is I eat what I want when I want. There are some weeks I’ll have shrimp for some of my meals and then there are weeks where shrimp doesn’t sound good to me at all. I’ve begun to really listen to my body and go with ‘what sounds good’ in the moment. Sure I take into account my nutritional needs for the day (as I’m able to do so) but I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that some days I will have animal protein from seafood and other days I will not and that’s okay for ME! My encouragement has and will always be to find what works for YOU!
Making Small Changes Leads to Big Results
I post about National Nutrition Month every year. I do so in order to draw attention to how important nutrition is, but the truth is I’m always teaching about nutrition, it’s my job. But I do think it’s great to come together in one defined month to draw even more awareness.
When I do my nutrition presentations I throw out a lot of ideas so people can reflect and see what they can do to improve or change their diet. Some people start writing down all the changes they want to make and other people get frustrated (I can see it on their faces) and throw their hands up in the air because they just don’t know where to start. I suggest thinking of just one change — it makes it more realistic, but also something people are willing to do. It really is a marathon and not a sprint when it comes to making changes. For this year’s National Nutrition Month theme, ‘Personalize Your Plate, begin to reflect and see if there might be something you can do to improve your health through your plate (whatever that means for YOU!)
How I’m Implementing Small Changes
Here are some small changes and additions that I’ve been making throughout this past year. My changes are not meant to be changes for you, although they might spark an idea!
- I continue to try and experiment with new foods: I think we all become creatures of habit and begin to eat the same things over and over. It’s easy to do. Am I right? But what I’ve tried to do better at is including new fruits and vegetables every so often. Enter broccoli rabe — it has a bitter taste that’s also a bit earthy and nutty. It’s one of those foods that is popular in Italian cuisine and seeing that I am a one-fourth Italian I thought I’d start to embrace some of my traditional cuisine! Broccoli rabe is best when sautéed or blanched to soften the stalks and leaves. I tried this for the first time this week.
- Herbs: I’ve always wanted to start an herb garden and guess what? I finally did!! My basil is still alive as is my rosemary. I also recently planted some other vegetables that seem to be sprouting up, let’s see if they produce in the next couple of weeks. My brother gave me a papaya seedling (still waiting to see if it’s a male or female) and I’m going to get a passion fruit vine started on my back fence. I decided I had to stop saying that I didn’t have a green thumb and just GO FOR IT! And I sure am glad that I did. I want to add a few more herbs — there really is nothing better than going out and cutting just a few leaves for a recipe when you need them. Parsley and mint are next!
- Sourdough: I started a new sourdough starter this quarantine. Her name is Rye-ly. I used a little rye flour in the beginning and thus her name was formed. I haven’t been baking as often as I’d like recently but this too was a lesson for me.
- Recipe Development and Food Photography: I only recently started writing down my recipes and sharing them. I’ve always had an affinity for creating recipes but simply never wrote them down. And with creating new recipes — easy ones for the most part — I also started trying to take better pictures. I’ve always loved food photography and by mixing my two loves of food and photography, I’ve created quite a few masterpieces if I do say so myself! I continue to explore in the kitchen, whether it’s a new recipe or a new video (reels and tik tok are all the rage) whatever I need to do to get my recipes to you all. The key is showing that cooking doesn’t have to be complicated!
- Dessert: I started the hashtag – #thisdietitianeatsdesserts because I really do despite many people thinking dietitians don’t eat dessert. Gasp! People often ask why I would promote eating desserts. My response is that you always want to find a way to include versus exclude foods (whether they be sweet or salty, whichever you prefer). It’s a hard concept to grasp and implement with all the diet culture that lurks, but because I include desserts here and there and they aren’t restricted in any way, I never feel the need to overdo it. Sure, I could be more mindful at times with the portions that I’ve taken, but that’s a practice I’m still working on in many facets of my life.
I hope throughout this month you see some inspiring posts, recipes, and more from other dietitians and myself and decide how you might make a small change that can lead to big results! Happy National Nutrition Month!