Put Your Best Fork Forward!

Woman with curly blonde hair in an orchard excitedly about to bite a fresh pearHappy National Nutrition Month! Every year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages getting back to the basics of a healthful diet, and moving toward healthful habits can be as simple as changing the next bite. Lately, I have been hearing of more nutrition and food fads and myths than usual. It seems the internet has made everyone a nutrition expert. (Insert a shrug and a sigh.) My personal pet peeve is the use of the phrases good food and bad food. Unfortunately, nutrition isn’t black and white unless you’re eating a hot fudge sundae. When I was an obese teen, I’d come home after school and cram my mouth full of snack cakes, potato chips, whatever packaged food I could find in our overstuffed pantry. These, of course, were not nutrient-dense choices and I don’t ever recommend eating this way. But can we still splurge on perceived bad foods while maintaining a healthful diet?

Yes. Eating well doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be as simple as starting with the next forkful. Each bite is important, but never splurging is an impossibility. I eventually overhauled my diet and my palate – but I didn’t start there. I started with one simple change. I added more fresh produce. Notice I didn’t say I cut out the junk, ran five miles a day, and added fresh produce, because I didn’t (at first). I made a conscious decision to add fresh foods to my plate. Sometimes it was as simple as a few carrots in addition to my chips. Sometimes it was a piece of fruit after a meal. Over time, I started to feel a little better and liked how fresh foods tasted – and it wasn’t terribly difficult to maintain one bite at a time. Now, I feel great and I definitely still splurge!

Considering it is National Nutrition Month, let’s focus on a simple change, such as improving the next bite. Do I wish as a teen I had stuffed my face with pears and carrots instead? Of course. But starting with the next bite can turn into a lifelong habit!

Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day!

March is National Nutrition Month, a nutrition education campaign to support sound food and activity choices from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Here’s the scoop: there is no such thing as a perfect diet! We each have likes, dislikes, and traditions. Humans are social eaters: breaking bread is building community and part of the foundation of cultures, traditions, family, and living life to its fullest. Certain foods have important emotional ties and yes, food provides some happiness. For instance, I have Irish roots and when I was growing up my mother always made Irish soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day. I carry on this tradition and relive very happy memories each time I do. Food nourishes the body and the soul.

Teaching nutrition in a culinary college has opened my eyes to just how exciting and creative a healthful diet can be. I think I have learned just as much from my students as they have learned from me! But being a nutrition professor and dietitian doesn’t mean I don’t indulge in pizza sometimes, or ice cream or chips. I do, we all do! My equation for living a fulfilled life is balance plus pleasure. Fruits, veggies, and lean proteins provide my diet with a balanced foundation plus a sense of well-being. Everything else is simply icing on the cake (sometimes literally!).

Find your balance and eat well, no matter your lifestyle. Happy eating!