March is National Nutrition Month: "Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day"
February 15, 2013
Every year in March dietitians work to raise awareness of what it means to eat a healthy diet. Each year the focus is different. This year the theme is, "Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day." The intent is to focus on the fact that there is not a one-size fits all approach to healthy eating. We are all individuals, and each one of us has different eating patterns based on the foods we prefer, lifestyle, cultural and ethnic traditions, and health concerns. This March during National Nutrition Month, dietitians throughout the United States, and the world, are highlighting "Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day" in recognition of the diversity in our eating habits.
This year Soldiers may want to pay particular attention to the messages in this article. Why is this year so important? The Army Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, has identified nutrition as one of the three components in the Performance Triad. The Performance Triad focuses on nutrition, sleep and physical activity as the three focus areas necessary to maximize Soldiers' health, and particularly to improve stamina. If you are a family member, the Performance Triad components are just as important for you to maintain your health. Are you making the food and drink choices that fuel your body to perform at its best?
Before we move on, I want to answer this question: What is a dietitian? A dietitian is a nutrition expert who has received a college degree in nutrition, completed a hands-on training program to practice what was learned in college, and passed a nationally recognized credentialing exam, similar to what doctors are required to do. These individuals are called registered dietitians. A dietitian is different from a "nutritionist" because of the education, training and testing process required. "Nutritionists" may or may not have any nutrition related education. Your local medical treatment facility likely has one or more dietitians who can provide you nutrition advice and guidance if you have questions about your eating habits.
Now that we know what a dietitian is, let's talk about the theme of "Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day." Basic nutrition guidelines for adults and children over 2 years old and older are to eat a variety of foods, while making sure to balance the number of calories eaten with physical activity to avoid overweight and obesity. The guidelines do not say what the variety of foods should be. This is where the "Your Way" part of the message comes in.
To follow the dietary guidelines for health and wellness, food choices should follow the MyPlate guidelines for a healthy diet (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/). Your food choices may also be based on the need to lose weight, manage high blood pressure, or diabetes. The point is to eat a balanced diet, and to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains (preferably whole grains), lean protein sources, and low fat sources of calcium (dairy). The MyPlate website has a variety of tools and resources to help guide you on your way, including sample menus and recipes, a "SuperTracker" to help you evaluate your eating and physical activity habits, and healthy eating tips.
Nutrition messages can sometimes be confusing. The MyPlate model takes some of the mystery out of what it means to eat a balanced, healthy diet. When you incorporate the fruits, vegetables, grains, lean protein sources, and low fat sources of calcium that fit within your eating preferences, you can "Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day!" You will also be one step closer to a healthier, stronger you!