National Nutrition Month encourages healthy living

By: Noelle Harada, Columnist

If the impending Spring Break isn’t enough to motivate you to eat better after the drag of winter, maybe celebrating National Nutrition Month will be.

In 1980, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics dubbed March as National Nutrition Month. It is a month-long initiative to raise public awareness on the importance of good nutrition.

This year’s theme is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” according to eatright.org. This theme reminds us that the process of eating right does not have to be boring.

We need to enjoy the experience of eating and love our bodies enough to fuel them with flavorful and healthy foods.

This month, the Towson University Nutrition Club will be hosting a series of events to celebrate good nutrition on campus.

Stop by the Union to look around the Nutrition Fair, and that evening, make your way to West Village Commons to participate in a unique fruit/vegetable tasting challenge March 23.

Both of these events present great opportunities to expand nutrition knowledge, eat free food and win some prizes.

The Nutrition Club will be the Guest Chef at Newell Dining Hall and will be helping to prepare a healthy recipe March 30. This will be a fun way to expand your cooking repertoire.

You can celebrate National Nutrition Month every day this month: try new foods, host a potluck dinner for your friends or plant a vegetable garden.

The possibilities to celebrate National Nutrition Month both on and off campus are endless.

Did you know that the U.S. Dietary Guidelines must be changed every five years to reflect the needs of the nation?

These guidelines, which are set by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and of Agriculture (USDA), were recently changed at the end of 2015.

Knowing and understanding these guidelines is a good way to kick off your nutritional knowledge this month. According to health.gov, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines offer five overarching instructions:

1) Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan.

2) Focus on variety, nutrient density and amount.

3) Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats, and reduce sodium intake.

4) Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.

5) Support healthy eating patterns for all.

Guidelines one through three focus on “healthy eating patterns.” A healthy eating pattern includes eating a variety of vegetables, fruits (especially whole fruits), grains (half of which are whole grains), fat-free or low-fat dairy, a variety of protein foods and oils. Eating these foods in balance and within an appropriate calorie level (taking into account age and activity level) ensure a healthy eating pattern.

Just as you should eat healthier foods frequently, other foods should be limited.

By limiting your intake of saturated fats, trans fats and sodium, you are making choices that will benefit your health in the long run.

The first three guidelines need to be taken into consideration along with physical activity.

A healthy eating pattern along with adequate physical activity help people maintain a healthy body weight, promote health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Guideline number four focuses on “shifts” and making healthy substitutions in your diet.

For example, making the shift from soda to water or from fruit juice to whole fruit.

Rule number five emphasizes that the eating patterns of the nation are influenced by society as a whole.

Everybody plays a role in creating healthy eating patterns nationwide. From school, to work, to personal choices at the grocery store, each community helps to contribute to the overall health of our nation.

National Nutrition Month is a great way to begin thinking about eating wholesome, flavorful foods, but the Dietary Guidelines are in place to ensure a lifelong journey of wellness and health. Starting this month, challenge yourself to make at least one healthy change in your habits. This change could lead to a lifetime of wellness.

For more information, contact Campus Dietician Kerry Ballek at kballek@towson.edu.

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