March is National Nutrition Month and while we all strive to eat well and stay healthy year-round, it seems like a good time for a few reminders and reinforcements. After all, study after study says nutrition is one of the keys to a long, happy and healthy life at any age, but particularly in our 40s, 50s and beyond.
We thought it would be fun to put together 31 nutrition tips* for 31 days in March. If you like them, share them!
1. Don’t forget breakfast.
Most nutritionists recommend three meals a day plus a few healthy snacks and breakfast is your first chance to make wise choices! Try to get lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables into the meal (oatmeal with low-fat milk, almonds and berries is a good option).
2. Stay home!
When you cook, you’re in control, so you can look out for what goes into your meals. And remember, you can modify almost every recipe to reduce the salt, use fresh instead of canned vegetables and serve up smaller portions.
3. Focus on freshness.
Many foods in their original form, including fruits, vegetables, fresh meats, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, milk, yogurt and grains like rice are naturally low in sodium, so it’s a good idea to get more of these foods.
4. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
Try to eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green, red and orange vegetables plus beans and peas. And yes, fresh, frozen and canned vegetables all count! Look for “reduced sodium” or “no-salt-added” canned vegetables and add fruit to meals and snacks.
5. Fuel for performance and health, not diet.
Tara Gidus, a Growing Bolder contributors and well-known nutrition expert and dietitian who consults with athletes, business leaders and more, has a deeply personal story and says that for her and her family, it’s all about living as long and healthy as possible.
6. Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese.
Dietitians recommend that older adults get more calcium and vitamin D to help keep bones healthy, so try to include three servings of fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese each day. If you are lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk or a calcium-fortified soy beverage to get the vitamin D benefits!
7. Choose foods that power your brain.
Dr. Neal Barnard tells Growing Bolder that food is so powerful and potent potent, it can greatly diminish your odds of getting diabetes or developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
8. Go Mediterranean.
Forget the fads — Growing Bolder’s Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Expert Dr. Susan Mitchell says one diet plan is not only healthy, it can be delicious and easy to follow for a lifetime.
9. Cut down on calories.
We know…this one’s no fun! But as we get older, we need fewer calories so be careful of portion sizes and try to choose lower-calorie foods so you don’t feel deprived.
10. Stop when you’re full.
Sure, this seems like common sense, but it’s easy to keep eating past our hunger cues. Experts say it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that your body is getting food, so make sure you give your brain and stomach time to catch up!
11. Let go of excuses.
It’s easy to find reasons not to get healthy. Lisa Lynn tells Growing Bolder, she’s heard (and used) the excuses and she has a plan that can inspire anyone.
12. Flavor up.
Herbs, spices, garlic, vinegar, black pepper and lemon juice can add a lot of flavor to foods with little to no salt or calories. Experiment!
13. You can’t beat beets.
There’s a 90 percent chance you’ll have to deal with high blood pressure at some point in your life. If you’d like to avoid taking yet another daily pill, your solution may be in the produce aisle.
14. Find the fiber!
Fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains have lots of fiber, which can help you feel full longer and lower your risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
15. Be careful with condiments.
Even small amounts of things like soy sauce, ketchup, pickles, olives, salad dressing and seasoning packets can be high in sodium or pack in sneaky calories.
16. Pack in the protein.
No matter who you are, by the time you’re in your 30s, your body starts to lose muscle mass. What can we do about it? Registered dietitian and nutrition expert Susan Mitchell, Ph.D., RD, FAND, offers two big suggestions for maintaining your muscle mass. She explains how the timing of your protein is just as important as how much you consume.
17. Keep it clean.
Take a few moments to rinse fresh vegetables and fruits under running water just before eating, cutting, or cooking. Even if you plan to peel or cut the produce before eating, it is important to thoroughly rinse it first to prevent microbes from transferring from the outside to the inside of the produce.
18. Snack smart.
That means, try to combine two or more food groups recommended by MyPlate: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy, lean protein or nuts.
19. Don’t be afraid to try new things.
Mimi Sheraton, the grand dame of food journalism, is revealing the 1,000 foods you need to eat before you die. And if you can’t travel to the food, she has tips for bringing the foods to you. Bon appétit!
20. Know your numbers.
Work with a dietitian or nutrition expert to get your exact nutritional needs, based on your age, gender, height, weight, current physical activity level, and other factors.
21. Don’t forget to drink your water.
Trust your thirst: if you are craving something to drink, don’t ignore it! Your body needs water throughout the day to stay balanced, and more if you’re older or live/work in hot weather. Skip the sugary drinks and pick water whenever possible.
22. Get powered by plants.
Even if you’re not ready to embrace a vegetarian diet, swapping some meat for meatless meals can make a big difference.
23. Keep asking questions.
Can food cure you? Dr. Terry Wahls, a professor at the University of Iowa’s College of Medicine, explains how she redesigned her diet to reverse the effects of her aggressive multiple sclerosis. She explains.
24. Look to the sea.
Many dietitians say that eating seafood (fish and shellfish) twice a week can help you get a great range of nutrients including healthy omega-3 fats. Salmon, trout, oysters and sardines are higher in omega-3s and lower in mercury.
25. Stick to the list.
If you plan ahead and bring a list of items you need for your meal plans to the store, you’ll save money and be less likely to get tempted by treats!
26. Don’t get hurt by the holidays.
Cakes, pies, sandwich platters — oh my! Don’t get derailed by special events. Choose a few small treats that you really crave and don’t let your taste buds take too much control.
27. Read labels.
Double-check the sugars, salt/sodium and list of ingredients whenever you’re buying processed or packaged foods. Some naughty things may be hiding!
28. Say goodbye to excess salt.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that everyone reduce their sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day — about the same amount of sodium in one teaspoon of salt. And adults age 51 and older, African Americans of any age and individuals with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease are recommended to further reduce sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams a day
29. Get out and get active.
Find foods that fuel your healthy lifestyle and you’re more likely to stay active and chase your passions! And a healthy diet and fitness go hand in hand, so don’t forget to move.
30. Remember: you’re a role model.
Your kids, grandkids, colleagues and even perfect strangers are taking their cues from your choices. Use your power for good and teach them how to get healthy as well!
31. Eat to feel happy!
The food you eat doesn’t just nourish your body, it can sharpen your mind or even alter your moods. The next time you reach for the pills, you might want to reach for the produce instead.
*sources: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, MyPlate, 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans,