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Celebrate Nutrition Month with healthy eating suggestions

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By Cheryle Jones Syracuse
Family and Consumer Sciences Staff
NC Cooperative Extension Service
Brunswick County Center

It’s National Nutrition Month. Every year since 1980, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (this group used to be called the American Dietetic Association) has set aside March as a special time to learn more about nutrition and healthy eating.
The theme for March 2012, “Get Your Plate in Shape,” focuses attention of the importance of making good informed food choices and developing sound eating and activity habits. The whole idea behind “Get Your Plate in Shape” is to get people thinking about their plate or bowl before they eat and then make smart decisions about what goes on that plate.
National Nutrition Month is your chance to get “get on the right foot” (or should I say plate?) with creating a healthy eating style. Here are a dozen ways that may make it easier.

Forget the fads
Fad diets come and go without offering a permanent solution. When you hear about the latest diet, always ask yourself: Can I eat this way for the rest of my life?

Be realistic
Any eating plan needs to work for your family and your situation. It needs to fit your schedule, your food budget and your cooking skills.

Make a commitment
Don’t just think about it. Write down some important reasons for changing your eating habits. Share a written or verbal promise to make healthy food choices with your family or friends.

Start slow
Making drastic changes can be a recipe for failure. Small changes can make a big difference, if they last. Pick just one change to start with and work on it. For example, we know that people who eat breakfast on a regular basis tend to be healthier and have a better overall eating style. Perhaps you’d like to start eating breakfast. Start there. When eating breakfast is a habit, you can work on another small change.

Be consistent
The human body responds well to consistency. For example, if you decide to start eating breakfast, have at least a small breakfast every day.

Stick with it
Research suggests that it takes about 21 days for a behavior to become habit. If you want to start eating breakfast, plan ahead what you will eat in the morning so it’s easy to stick with it and meet your goal.

Be flexible...stuff happens
Life if full of surprises, and sometimes plans need to change. I you have to leave early and don’t have time for that breakfast at home, pack something to take with you.

Be creative
If breakfast is your goal, make a list of all the possible foods, like all the breakfast options that you could enjoy at home, in the car, on the bus or at work.

Have items on hand
Once you have a list of possible foods, keep them around at home, work or anywhere you might eat breakfast. This goes for other meals and snacks, too. You can’t eat healthy if you don’t have the good options available.

Plan ahead
Plan ahead of time to have healthy food available so that you don’t have to eat whatever is handy or raid the vending machine when you get hungry. All good intentions tend to “fly out the window” when you’re hungry and can’t find something easy (and healthy) to eat.

Forgive yourself
Healthy eating does not have to be perfect eating. If you make a mistake or miss a few days of eating, no problem. Just get back on track as soon as possible.

Congratulate yourself
Changing your eating habits can be tough. Just think how long you’ve had your current habits. Give yourself a pat on the back for any healthy changes you can make.

For more information on National Nutrition Month or for a great fact sheet on how to “Get Your Plate in Shape,” go to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at www.eatright.org. You’ll also find some quizzes, games and activities and even a nutrition sudoko.
Sources: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; NC NET Program and Eat Right Montana.