March is National Nutrition Month – the perfect time to make a commitment to better eating, to better health and to YOU! Here are my four favorite tips to help jumpstart your healthy lifestyle and keep you there permanently!
Breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day (they all are), but it certainly provides your body with the energy it needs to set you up for success, no matter what your day has in store. It also gives your metabolism a boost after “fasting” overnight, which is crucial if you’re looking to improve body composition. A balanced breakfast helps you manage your intake throughout the day and prevents afternoon sugar cravings, along with that dreaded 5:00PM snack fest. When planning breakfast options, include a balance of lean protein, whole grains and fruits and vegetables.
Here are a few tasty examples to get you started:
- Oatmeal cooked with low-fat milk, topped with sliced almonds and raspberries
- Scrambled eggs with spinach and diced bell peppers
- Low-fat cheese on a slice of whole grain toast and a pear
- Plain nonfat Greek yogurt, mixed with canned pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg
Pack Your Lunch
First of all, don’t skip lunch. I find that people skip lunch more often than they skip breakfast! We work through lunch or “hold off” until dinner, thinking that we’re saving calories. What we actually do when we skip lunch is set ourselves up for overeating later in the day. Since most of us are more active during the early part of our days, we need to fuel that activity by eating lunch! Balance lunch the same way you do at breakfast by including lean protein, whole grains and fruits and veggies. Packing your own lunch helps create and control this balance. If you can find a healthy restaurant or takeout option, that’s always a good backup. However, remember that most restaurants do not serve large portions of veggies, so ask them to double up!
Suggestions for delicious and nutritious lunches to pack:
- Brown rice with diced grilled chicken, chopped broccoli and roasted carrots
- Low fat fat three-bean turkey chili
- Roasted turkey, avocado, spinach and hummus on whole grain bread
- Quinoa, black beans, salsa and grilled shrimp in a wrap
A meal that you make at home will always be more nutrient-dense than anything you’ll order when you eat out. You can prepare a larger serving of produce and add healthier sources of proteins and fats than any professional chef can provide. Restaurants want you to keep coming back, therefore they add a lot of unnecessary sodium and high fat sauces, served in enormous portions that we don’t need. This is especially unhealthy at dinner later in the day. If you don’t like to cook, make meals similar to what you eat for breakfast or lunch. If all meals are well balanced, it doesn’t matter whether you eat scrambled eggs for breakfast or for dinner!
Try these simple and easy dinner ideas:
- Chicken veggie soup with roasted chicken, carrots, celery, onions, chicken broth and whole grain noodles
- Whole grain pasta with sautéed lean ground turkey combined with your favorite jarred red sauce, topped with shredded spinach and mushrooms
- Stuffed peppers, filled with cooked quinoa, black beans, cooked diced onion, sautéed diced zucchini and low fat shredded mozzarella and baked until the cheese is melted and pepper is soft
Count Fruits and Veggies!
Instead of counting calories, count the amount of fruits and veggies that you eat each day. The final tally should equal 9 or more. Fruits and veggies not only add vibrant colors to your meals, but they also provide texture, flavor, vitamins, minerals and fiber! To optimally fuel your body, 9 is the major number. I know it sounds like a lot, but look at it this way:
- Breakfast – berries in your yogurt (1)
- Snack – smoothie with banana, kale, spinach and pineapple (4)
- Lunch – quinoa power bowl with broccoli, cauliflower, chicken, onions, bell pepper (4)
- Snack – carrots and hummus (2)
- Dinner – grilled salmon and baked potato with a garden salad made that includes romaine lettuce, cucumber, grape tomatoes, and olives (5)
Grand Total = 16! That’s a nutrient winning day!
Making a few small purposeful changes can make a BIG difference in your quest for better nutritional habits. Happy National Nutrition Month and good luck on your journey to good health!