March marks National Nutrition Month with a new theme every year chosen by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Each theme is intended to encourage healthy habits. This year’s theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” Although there is a new theme every year, they seem to encompass the same message — a reminder to make healthy choices in our lives with sound nutrition and physical activity. It was first celebrated in March 1973 as National Nutrition Week, but became a month-long observance in 1980 as nutrition became the talk of the public. National Nutrition Month enables Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs), the nutrition experts, to deliver evidence-based nutrition advice to the public in an efficient manner. Although RDNs are always available to provide up-to-date nutrition information to consumers, campaigns and activities throughout National Nutrition Month enhances learning experiences.
Putting your best fork forward can have multiple meanings. What does this mean to you? Is it to make small healthy changes one fork at a time? Does it mean to model healthy eating for your children and family? Holding the fork empowers individuals to make choices every day that impacts their own lives. Overall, the best advice is to use the meaning that applies most to you and your family that encourages healthy habits one forkful at a time. I asked several WIC staff members what the theme meant to them and a couple replied “eating healthy” and “choosing healthy options.” One person said it is a reminder to eat more vegetables and less potato chips while another said it’s about being “conscientious about making healthy food choices for yourself and your family.”
Follow these tips to help “put your best fork forward” during this month and many months to come.
Eat breakfast … a healthy one. Try to include at least three food groups in your breakfast such as a lean protein, whole grains, and either a fruit or vegetable. Examples include oatmeal with skim milk and topped with your favorite fruit, a breakfast burrito made with a whole-wheat tortilla, scrambled eggs, cheese, your favorite vegetables, and salsa. Include protein and fiber to help you feel fuller longer.
Fix healthy snacks for school, work, or on the go! Include at least two food groups to keep your energy level high. Examples are celery with peanut butter, veggies or whole grain crackers with string cheese, and veggies or whole grain pitas with hummus.
Watch your portion sizes. Focus on choosing a vegetable as your main course and add a protein and grain. Make half your plate vegetables, one-quarter protein, and the other quarter grains. An example is half the plate a spinach salad, one-quarter a piece of grilled salmon, and the other quarter brown rice.
“Put your best fork forward” while dining out. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for modifications to your meal to make it healthier. Compare nutrition info if it’s available and look for baked, grilled, or steamed options.
Engage in family meal times. Families are busy with many activities. Try to eat together at least three to four times a week. Avoid screen time and have conversations. Have the whole family involved in planning and cooking the meal. Results will be rewarding.
This is a great time to discuss healthy eating and for parents to be role models one forkful at a time. Remember, you hold the fork. How will you “put your best fork forward” to improve your health as well as the health of those around you?
Kimberly Young, MS, RDN, LD, is the WIC Coordinator at Panhandle Health District and a graduate of the University of Idaho Dietetic program.