Fuel for the Future: What to Know for National Nutrition MonthExercise and Nutrition
“Fuel for the future.”
It’s not what you probably think: coal, nuclear energy, natural gas, and other energy sources.
Instead, think food—because it’s National Nutrition Month, a nutrition education and information campaign celebrated each March.
This year’s theme “Fuel for the future” encourages us to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits.
The goal is to promote a sustainable diet, says Megan Ryan, a clinical dietitian with Lee Health Gulf Coast Medical Center.
She defines “sustainable diet” as a way to develop eating habits that support our physical, mental, and social health throughout our lives while also minimizing the effects of our food consumption on the environment.
“The common term ‘eat local’ does exactly that,” Megan says. “It encourages us to focus on buying and consuming more whole plant foods and less processed foods grown where we live, like at farmer’s markets. You’ll be getting the freshest vegetables, fruits, seafood, meats and other foods, supporting local businesses such as farmers and butchers and seafood vendors, and reducing your carbon footprint because these foods haven’t been transported a long ways from outside the area.”
Locally sourced foods are also healthier for us because they are available at their peak of freshness. Thus, Megan says, they retain their full nutrient potential.
“Vegetables and fruits produced and shipped from somewhere else are often picked before their ready,” she says. “They end up inside a shipping container, where they ripen during transport. Studies show that produce provided this way can lose as much as to 30 percent of their nutrient potential.”
National nutrition month also reminds us to review our nutrition habits and what we’re putting in our body, Megan says.
“By doing this, you might identify some areas for making changes that may improve your health in the long run and lower your risks for certain diseases.”
But Megan cautions that making dietary changes, consider a mindset of “adding” and not “subtracting” when planning meals and snacks.
“Too often, when we think about diet, we think we need to be restrictive by cutting out certain foods. Instead, focus on adding healthy foods to your meals, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, to replace those unhealthy foods.”
How to Make Sustainable Diet Choices
- Try to eat a diet of mostly plant-based foods, supplemented with a modest amount of animal-based products.
- Choose fewer processed foods by prioritizing fresh products.
- Choose seafood products from sustainable fisheries.
- Eat locally grown, seasonal food that supports the local economy while offering our bodies the healthiest foods.
Need Help from a Nutrition Expert?
If you’re unsure how to develop a healthier diet plan tailored just for you, a registered dietitian can help. You’ll learn your nutritional needs, determine your health goals, and find out how to treat or reduce your risk of diet-related chronic diseases.
“A registered dietitian can review your eating habits and lifestyle, assess your nutritional status and create a personalized nutrition treatment plan that’s right for you,” Megan says. “Ask your health care provider for a referral to a registered dietitian.”
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (eatright.org). The world's largest organization of food and nutrition practitioners, the Academy is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education, and advocacy.
MyPlate. This easy-to-follow nutrition guide helps you plan and tailor your meals based on you. Published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
USDA Local Food Directories. Looking for places in your area to buy fresh foods for your family? This feature of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service points the way!