Tuesday, March 19, 2013

National Nutrition Month Week 3: Every Day

If you haven't been here in the past couple of weeks, we've been concentrating on 2013's National Nutrition Month, and its theme, "Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day." The "every day" part is arguably the most difficult to sustain. Like exercising, writing, or anything else we might try to do on a regular basis, it becomes difficult when everything else gets in the way, and they key is not just adding one more thing to your to-do list, but rethinking and rearranging your approach.

Eating is the only thing you actually have to do today, but from a snapshot of where most of us spend our money and our time, you'd never know it. When we treat our meals as an afterthought to be squeezed in when everything else is done, we unconsciously reinforce the idea that our health is unimportant. Besides, according to a recent study, supposed "convenience" foods don't actually save much time in the long run.

Last year we took a look at some fun and easy ways to maintain healthy eating habits, and they definitely still hold up. Something that didn't make the list and is important, however, is the magic of leftovers. I don't know about you, but I can find the time and energy to pull off about one really good, well-thought-out meal a week. The rest of the time it's pasta, pizza, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Otherwise known as simple carbs, simple carbs, and simple carbs. While hosting a pot luck party and effectively making your guests do the work for you is one time and energy saving option, you can't really do that for three meals a day. But keeping yourself rich in portable, re-heatable healthy meals can be as easy as doubling a recipe to make it last longer. If you're  worried you'll get bored of the same thing after awhile, make a versatile meal that can swap out different side dishes to keep it fresh. Maybe cook up a bunch of chicken and rice one night and keep a few different bags of frozen vegetables in the freezer, then when you're heating everything up, throw a different sauce over it each time. This might also help you experiment with different flavor combinations and find your new favorite dish!

Monday, March 11, 2013

National Nutrition Month Week 2: "Your Way"

Last week we talked about how March is the 32nd annual National Nutrition Month, sponsored by the American Dietetics Association, and the first part of this year's theme, "Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day." This week I'd like to talk about what it means to eat "your way."

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' website, the National Nutrition Month campaign is, among other things, "designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices." You can't really eat your way if you aren't able to make informed food choices. And you can't make informed food choices if you don't know what's in your food or where it comes from.

There are a number of things standing in the way of our making informed food choices. Some deliberate, (but it says "diet!") and some simply a product of convenience. (What's a sausage, anyway?) One of the ways in which people are deliberately denying food eaters the information they want is by refusing to label foods that have been genetically modified. Back in November, California came pretty close to making GMO labeling mandatory, but thanks to a whole bunch of marketing money from Monsanto and friends, the bill was voted down.

GMO labeling is back in the news, though, thanks to a recent poll in which 83 percent of respondents said they believe genetically modified organisms should be labelled as such. Additionally, Whole Food Market announced that it will be voluntarily labeling all of its GMO products...by 2018. Better late than never, I guess.

In the meantime, you can look for the Non-GMO Project's label on a handful of products at grocery stores and restaurants across the country to be sure that your food is naturally grown.

What else do you do to stay informed about your food choices?

Monday, March 4, 2013

National Nutrition Month Week 1: "Eat Right"

 I'm Blogging National Nutrition Month
Get excited, because March is National Nutrition Month! Since 1980, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has sponsored the month-long endeavor to "focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits."

The specific theme of 2013's National Nutrition Month is "Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day," which I think is a relevant and timely motto in light of the fact that, as a society, we seem to finally be getting "fed up" (I'm not sorry) with fad diets that claim to have a universal answer for everyone regardless of their genetic makeup, culture, or level of exercise. The guideline "Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day," is vague enough to encourage us to think for ourselves about what the best choices are depending on our specific situations. It's also a little reminiscent of Michael Pollan's suggestion to "Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants," don't you think?

So what does it mean to "eat right?" The word "right" inherently gives off a sense of judgy-ness with which I'm not sure I'm completely comfortable. But we'll let it slide because the overall sentiment seems to be putting the focus on finding a style of eating that works for you.

For me, eating "right" means eating real food: food made from ingredients you can pronounce, or better yet, whole fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins that don't have ingredients lists at all.

Avoiding corn is a great tool to use when assessing whether an item at the grocery store is a good investment, because many of the additives that go into heavily processed not-really-foods are made from corn. It isn't a complete fix, though, because the marketing teams are onto us. If you look carefully in the dreaded center aisles on your next trip to Star Market or Stop & Shop, you'll notice plenty of processed snacks that boast "no high fructose corn syrup." Don't be fooled. If it's the kind of food substance that has to say things like that, odds are they've just swapped out the HFCS for a different highly processed sweetener hoping you'll take the bait and not read the fine print too closely.

Tune in for more on National Nutrition Month next week, but in the meantime, what does "Eat Right" mean to you?