National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign held annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and this year we are celebrating its 40th anniversary. This campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. This year I am supporting this campaign by promoting the “ReThink Your Drink” and “Meatless Mondays” programs.
Why ReThink Your Drink? Americans consume 200 to 300 more calories each day than we did 30 years ago, and nearly half of these extra calories come from sugar-sweetened drinks. Simple: more calories mean more weight. In fact just one can of soda a day can add up to 10 pounds or more of weight gain in a year! A typical 12-ounce can of cola contains 136 calories and 33 grams of sugar. This works out to be almost 8 teaspoons of sugar and 135 of the calories come from sugar.
Red light – green light, do you remember playing this game as a child? Well we can also play this game with our drink choices. “Red” beverages, which should be consumed rarely if not at all, contain over 12 grams of sugar per 12 ounces, therefore they are high in sugar, also many have a high sodium and/or fat content, and they contain “empty” calories with little or no nutrients, which can lead to weight gain and other chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Examples include regular soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, pre-sweetened coffee and tea drinks, and juice drinks with added sugars.
“Yellow light” drinks contain 6-12 grams of sugar per 12 ounces and/or they contain artificial sweeteners and moderate amounts of sodium. These drinks get the “yellow” light because they should only be consumed occasionally. 100% fruit juice and flavored low-fat milk are part of the “yellow” group because they may contain more than 12 grams of sugar for a 12 ounce serving, but these are natural sugars, not added sugars and they contain important nutrients. The key is to consume these in smaller portions of 8 ounces or less. Other “yellow” beverages include diet soda, diet iced tea, sweetened soy milk, and other low-sugar drinks.
Go Green! These are the healthiest choices! Drink plenty “green” beverages because they contain 0 to 5 grams of sugar per 12 ounce serving. “Green” beverages have no added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Examples include water, seltzer water, 1% or skim milk (in small portions) and unsweetened soymilk (in small portions). Water hydrates the body, quenches thirst, and supports other bodily functions necessary for overall health. Bored with plain water? Add a slice of lemon or lime or float some fresh berries in your water to add a touch of flavor. Follow the ReThink Your Drink campaign introduced by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and drink plenty of the “green light” choices; water, seltzer water, skim or 1% milk.
Meatless Mondays is a great campaign to “think outside the box” for at least one day a week. How about a veggie wrap for lunch with roasted vegetables and low-fat cheese rolled in a whole-wheat tortilla? Diets rich in whole plant foods tend to have lower calories, saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium, while increasing your vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals, fiber and healthy fats and carbohydrate intake. Going meatless one day a week does not automatically make your diet healthier. Remember to balance your food choices, choose more healthy options and keep your calorie intake in check.
Registered Dietitian (RD) Day is Wednesday, March 13th; “this is a day when we recognize the important work of RDs in improving the public health through food and nutrition” says registered dietitian and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson Melinda Johnson. The RD credential is vital when determining who is the best source of safe and accurate nutrition information. Scientific research highlights nutrition as one of the leading lifestyle factors in health promotion and disease prevention throughout life. RDs translate nutrition science into practical and applicable ways for people to bring nutritious foods into their daily lives. It is our role to discern between fact and fiction and give people the tools to make realistic eating behavior changes.
Are you wondering what a healthy diet looks like? I’ve got an app for that!
MealLogger – is an easy and personal nutrition coaching service that allows you to connect virtually with me, your RD coach. No fad diets, no calorie counting. You gain the advantage of nutrition advice that is tailored for your eating habits, your health concerns and your lifestyle.