National Nutrition Month Tips for Healthy Eating
Suggestions for National Nutrition Month include eating fruits and vegetables of different colors to take advantage of their varying health benefits.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – March is National Nutrition Month, and faculty from the University of Arkansas’ human nutrition program in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences are encouraging consumers to increase the variety of foods they eat to receive more health benefits.
Food groups include vegetable, fruit, grain, protein and dairy. Subgroups for vegetables include dark green, red and orange, beans and peas, starch and other; and fruit subgroups include fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100 percent juice.
“In plant foods, the differences in colors and odors — the pungent garlic or onions versus the mild potato — are due to differences in naturally occurring compounds called phytochemicals that may have health benefits,” said Sabrina Trudo, associate professor of human nutrition and holder of the 21st Century Endowed Chair in Human Environmental Sciences. “Eating a variety of foods enables us to eat a variety of different benefits.”
Mix the Colors
- Plan meals with different colored vegetables throughout the week.
- Experiment with different vegetables for soups and salads.
- Choose vegetables that are in season.
“Plant foods that are orangeish-yellow in color offers unique benefits compared to blueish-purple plant foods, which offer their own unique benefits,” said Trudo. “By limiting choices to the orangeish-yellow ‘family’ of fruits and vegetables, we miss out on the unique benefits of the blueish-purple ‘family.’”
Switch Up Fruits
- Choose different colored fruits for snacks
- Try fruits as main dishes or in salads
- Eat fruit in place of sweets for deserts
“Many researchers have reported consumption of diverse fruits and vegetables provide health benefits due to a profile of unique bioactives or phytochemicals, constituents that represent distinct colors,” said assistant professor of human nutrition Jae Kyeom Kim. “For instance, tomatoes and watermelons (red) are good sources of lycopene, which may lower risks of cancers (prostate cancer). The color of orange-yellow fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, mangoes and peaches, is the result of a natural carotenoid pigment. They are good sources of cryptoxanthin, which is converted to Vitamin A, an essential nutrient for human health, including your eyesight and immune system.”
Variety in Proteins
- Switch to whole grain bread or wraps for sandwiches
- Try a whole grain new to you, such as brown rice instead of white
- Look for cereals and snacks using whole grain flours
- Substitute plant-based proteins in place of meat
- Experiment with seafood by grilling or baking fish in place of other protein two times a week
“The message with protein sources, again, is variety,” said Trudo. “A variety provides a variety of benefits. Red meat like beef is an excellent source of iron, which the body needs. Other protein sources, like beans, are an excellent source of folate, a necessary vitamin, and can be much cheaper. Omega-3 fatty acids are a very good type of fat, but U.S. diets are typically low in this type of fat. Fatty fish, like lake trout and salmon, are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids (which may help lower the risk of heart disease, depression, dementia and arthritis). All of these protein sources deliver different things that can benefit our health.”
Move to Low-Fat Options
- move to low-fat and fat-free dairy by sweetening plain low-fat yogurt with different fruits or whole grain cereals
- make smoothies with fruit and fat-free milk or yogurt
- sprinkle low-fat or reduced-fat cheese on top of soups, stews and casseroles
- eat raw vegetables with low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese dips for a healthy snack
National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help consumers make informed food choices, and develop sound eating and physical activity habits. The theme for the month is “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” emphasizing everyone can make healthier food choices.
About the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences: Bumpers College provides life-changing opportunities to position and prepare graduates who will be leaders in the businesses associated with foods, family, the environment, agriculture, sustainability and human quality of life; and who will be first-choice candidates of employers looking for leaders, innovators, policy makers and entrepreneurs. The college is named for Dale Bumpers, former Arkansas governor and longtime U.S. senator who made the state prominent in national and international agriculture.
About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.
Robby Edwards, director of communications
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