Since the 1970’s public interest in the field of nutrition has been growing. This interest sparked the beginning of “National Nutrition Month,” a month where nutrition and health are highlighted and celebrated in countless ways, according to themes. This year’s theme encompasses a friendly challenge to “Go Further with Food,” and promotes the importance of creating healthy physical activity habits, optimally fueling your body, and reducing food loss and waste [1,2].
Why is this theme important?
The public is becoming more and more aware of the powerful benefits of choosing nutritious, healthy foods. However, there are still struggles among many of us regarding the adoption of a healthy diet. Whether it is not choosing a healthy breakfast in the morning or relying on too much on prepared convenience foods. To help solidify healthy habits, it is important to take a step back to evaluate your health and determine positive ways in which you can optimize your wellbeing.
It is also important to be mindful of the amount that we prepare, consume, and throw away. In 2010 the USDA estimated that food waste in the U.S. amounted to about 30-40 percent of the national food supply. In other words, approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food was wasted, and this problem continues to rise . This is troubling for many reasons, but perhaps the one that comes to most of our minds is that the food we waste every day could be food on the table for a family in need, or for someone who is homeless and does not have the means for food.
Last, but not least, physical activity is a significant aspect of health to incorporate in to our daily routines. The CDC found that 1 in 5 adults meet the 2008 physical activity guidelines (that’s about 21% of adults in the United States performing 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week) . In addition, less than 3 in 10 high school students get at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day . With the rise in technology, schools canceling physical activity and education classes, and many of us becoming busier, it is important to try to find ways to get up and move (the solution is not black and white- even 15 minutes a day makes a difference!).
What can you do?
Before taking that weekly trip to the grocery store, write down what you need to prepare your meals. As you do that, take a moment to think about past weeks. Did you find yourself throwing out food? Did you find that you bought something you already had in the back of your pantry? If that is the case, try rummaging through your pantry, refrigerator and freezer to make sure you do not already have the food items that you wrote on your grocery list. This will help cut down on food waste and save you money! Now, what about the variety on your grocery list? A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is to “eat the rainbow.” By doing this, you can guarantee you are getting a wide variety of foods and therefore, a wide variety of nutrients! Remember, our bodies require a balance of nutrients in adequate amounts to run optimally from day to day.
Physical activity is also something our bodies need to stay healthy, but what if you feel you don’t have the time? For many of us this is the case, but there are ways to increase activity throughout the day. Try sitting down with your schedule and looking for gaps during the day where either a short amount of time or an hour or two could be dedicated to a physical activity that you enjoy. This could be as simple as a short walk on your lunch break or committing to take the stairs instead or the elevator. If you have time, try incorporating a new activity like one or two days a week such as yoga, barre or HIIT. Most of us always have some time for this.
Here are some additional tips and tricks to optimally fuel your body, reduce food waste, and add some physical activity into your daily routine:
- Buy frozen foods if necessary, or buy fresh and freeze
- Prepare breakfast the night before (think balanced and healthy)
- Try using a crockpot or a slow cooker if time is an issue- set it and forget it! A great website for preparing these in advance is https://newleafwellness.biz/
- Make sure you have enough storage containers/bags (glass pyrex is best, to avoid plastic contamination!)
- If buying meat, try separating out the amount you will eat for a few days before freezing it (this will help portion meals and keep the meat from going bad in the refrigerator)
- Using a blender for an on-the-go smoothie is a great, healthy alternative to cooking (if you do not have the time to cook a meal)
- Take the stairs
- Park farther away from the grocery store, work building, gym, etc.
- Find a friend or family member to join you in the physical activity of your choice
Tasty make-ahead breakfast recipes to make your mornings easier, and fuel your body:
Overnight Oatmeal with Berries (adapted from the USDA Mixing Bowl)
- ½ cup milk (or milk alternative)
- ½ cup greek yogurt (or yogurt alternative)
- 1 tablespoon of your favorite nut butter (almond, cashew, etc)
- 2 teaspoons honey
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup uncooked rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
- ¼ cup raspberries, frozen (and/or other berries)
Directions: Combine milk, greek yogurt, nut butter, honey, cinnamon and vanilla extract in a glass container or jar with lid. Add oats and mix well. Gently fold in raspberries. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours overnight. Enjoy cold or reheat on the stove, if desired. For an additional protein boost, top with pumpkin seeds and/or more nut butter.
Avocado Banana Green Smoothie (adapted from Minimalist Baker)
- 1 small frozen banana
- ½ ripe avocado
- 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
- 1 tablespoon nut butter
- 1 large handful of spinach (or other green leafy)
- 1 cup unsweetened almond, hemp or coconut milk
Directions: Add all ingredients to a high speed blender. Blend on high until creamy and smooth, adding more almond milk as needed. If making the night before you can store in the fridge and give it a quick blend again in the morning or just give it a good shake and take it as is.
Written by Ashley B., Bastyr Student Intern
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. National Nutrition Month. https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition-month/national-nutrition-month. Published August 1, 2017. Accessed February 13, 2018.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. National Nutrition Month: Celebration Toolkit. https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition-month/national-nutrition-month-celebration-toolkit. Published August 1, 2017. Accessed February 14, 2018.
- United States Department of Agriculture. Frequently Asked Questions. https://www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/faqs.htm. Accessed February 13, 2018.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts about Physical Activity. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/data/facts.htm. Updated May 23, 2014. Accessed February 17, 2018.