March is National Nutrition Month

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 15, 2008

Column by Denise Arnold, Nutrition Tips

This year the National Nutrition Month campaign reminds Americans of these &8220;Top 10 Facts about Nutrition&8221; from the experts at the American Dietetic Association.

1. Eating right doesn&8217;t have to be complicated. Use to develop a personalized plan for lifelong health. Consuming a variety of foods will give you many different nutrients, all of which your body needs. Start your day with breakfast. People who skip breakfast tend to eat more than those who kick-start their day with some form of breakfast.

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Switch from refined grains to more whole grain foods. Try adding just two more fruits or vegetables to your day.

Sneak in any form of beans for added protein and fiber.

2. The best nutrition advice is based on science. Before adopting any changes to your diet, be sure the information is based in scientific fact.

3. Get your food and nutrition facts from the expert: a registered dietitian.

RD&8217;s are uniquely qualified to translate the science of nutrition into reliable advice you can use every day. Albert Lea Medical center employs two dietitians. There are also dietitians employed locally in our community nursing homes, public schools, and grocery stores.

4. Balancing physical activity and a healthful diet is your best recipe for managing weight and promoting overall health and fitness.

Daily physical activity does more than just burn calories.

It helps you sleep better, feel good about yourself, worry less, and handle stress better.

Aim for a total of 30 minutes per day.

This can be broken up into three 10-minute segments.

5. Think nutrient-rich rather than &8220;good&8221; or &8220;bad&8221; foods.

The majority of your food choices should be packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients &8212; and low in calories.

6. Look at the big picture: No single food or meal makes or breaks a healthful diet.

Your total diet is the most important focus.

7. Prepare, handle and store food properly to keep you and your family safe from food-borne illness. Did you know seventy percent of Americans working eat at heir desk.

For food safety follow these in-office tips:

keep your food cool by putting an ice pack at bottom of your lunch bag; label and date any food you put in a refrigerator; clean the microwave after use so old splatters don&8217;t end up in your food container; use paper towels to clean your utensils and plates as workplace towels and dishrags can harbor much bacteria; keep hand sanitizer&8217;s close by, as well as surface cleaners, food and refrigerator thermometers.

8. Don&8217;t fall prey to food myths and misinformation that may harm rather than benefit your health.

You know the saying, &8220;if it sounds too good to be true it most likely is.&8221;

9. Read food labels to get nutrition facts that help you make smart food choices quickly and easily. Compare foods to get the highest source of fiber (5 grams or more is considered high fiber), calcium, iron, and vitamin C. Search for low-sodium foods (meaning less than 140 mg per serving).

Remember to check the serving size on the box.

It will correspond to the nutrient information.

If you consume two servings you need to multiply the nutrients shown by two.

10. Find the healthy fats when making selections.

By choosing more polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats, you can keep your saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol containing foods low.

When a label says &8220;low in saturated fat&8221; it means less than 2 grams per serving. Low in calories means less than 40 calories per serving.

Trans fats should be kept below 2 grams per day total, and cholesterol 300 mg or less per day.

By taking any of these small steps, you will create healthy habits that will benefit your health now and the rest of your life.

Any one of these will help develop a stronger immune system and this is one of your best defenses against illness.

Denise Arnold is a registered and licensed dietitian at Albert Lea Medical Center &8212; part of Mayo Health System.