Thursday, March 13, 2014

Seven Ways to Celebrate National Nutrition Month

City Green is Kicking off National Nutrition Month with 7 tips to stay healthy all month long.

1. Cut the meat Meat has become a huge part of the American diet, it has been drilled in our brains that it is the best source of protein and that we need it to live. When you take a step back and do some research on the subject you see that it isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. In studies across the globe they have found that those who live a lifestyle apart from meat, mainly vegetarians and vegans, live longer. (Check out some reports about them living longer and living in Blue Zones). Benefits of a meat free diet include: decreased rates of cardiovascular disease, low incidence of cholesterol (because it’s found in animals), and increased consumption of fiber. Excluding meat from your diet also helps you save money, it costs more to buy meat than it does to purchase whole grains in bulk, fruits, and vegetables. Besides living longer and saving money cutting meat spares our environment and the animals. It is estimated that factory farms, where our meat is made, are responsible for 173,000 miles of polluted water and streams, due to run off. So go ahead, give it a try if not forever at least once a week. (Source: Vegetarian Times).

2. Record what you eat. A lot of you may have made resolutions to lose weight or become more active, a great way to keep you going on your 2014 resolution is to keep a food journal or diary. It’s a great way to keep track of what you’re eating and help you see if you’re keeping up with what you should be eating. There’s some pretty useful tools that you can download on your phone to help make the task of recording a little easier, these include: My Fitness Pal, My Food Diary,  Lose it!, and Livestrong Calorie Tracker. If these apps are too much for you, simply using the notes application on your phone works too! Studies have shown that keeping a food journal of six days a week can lead to twice as much weight loss as keeping a journal for one day a week. So if you’re ready to start recording here’s some tips for success. The most important tip to help you keep you on track, log food items as you eat them. It is easier to quickly take a second or two to write down what you ate  than trying to recall a whole day of meals and snacks (they count too). This will also help you record more accurately. Another tip is to get familiar with portion sizes, this will help you estimate your amounts when you are eating out and not at home. Last but not least, cook at home! It’s much easier to record when you know what is going into the food and how much you’re eating.

3. Go outside. Spring is right around the corner and what better way to enjoy it than by being outside! Go for a walk, play with your children, smell the fresh air, and get some Vitamin D. The sun is the greatest supplier of Vitamin D, our body takes the sunlight and converts it into the vitamin. It then plays an important role in bone health because it aids in the absorption of Calcium and Phosphorus in our bodies. Those minerals help make our bones strong. The best and cheapest way to soak up the sun is to get at most 15 minutes of sun exposure, with no sunscreen. Besides the sun Vitamin D is naturally found in oily fish such as salmon and tuna and fortified in orange juice and some dairy products. So go ahead, get your Vitamin D on.

4. Grow some of your own food. While you’re outside don’t forget you can grow your own food in the littlest of spaces. Gardening inside of small spaces is something people have been doing for quite some time, there are many self help guides on the internet but the best that I found was, from Urban Organic Gardener, showing you how you can start a mini garden with some homemade containers, soil, and some seeds. Common things to grow in your small spaces are: tomatoes, herbs, and salad greens. However there is a new wave of “regrowing” that uses the left over parts of food and with just some water they will regrow into themselves, these include: scallions, romaine lettuce, celery and potatoes. Once you get the hang of your mini garden check with your township or town garden club to see if they have public plots where you can grow your own food outside with a lot of space.

5. Eat your fiber! Fiber is an essential part of the human diet that a lot of us are missing out on. It is recommended that men get 38 grams of fiber a day and women 25 grams. In the United States our usual intake is 15g/day, that is well under the recommended amount. So why are we missing out on this amazing part of our diet, is it because of bran? Surprisingly enough fiber is not only found in bran it’s also in fruits like pears, apples, and strawberries, and in vegetables like, lentils, beans and peas (which has 3.5 more grams of fiber than your good old fashioned wheat bran). The health benefits of fiber include: protection against the risk of cardiovascular diseases, helps with diabetes, weight control and most importantly bowel movements. So before you go, remember to eat the skins of your fruits because they hold the most of the fiber.

6. Eat clean. Clean eating is the newest food movement, which focuses on eating foods in the most natural state. Straying away from processed foods and coming back to grains, plants, and getting meat straight from the butcher. Eating clean is not a diet; instead it is a lifestyle change that has a few simple principles that should be followed. The most important is to eat frequently, people who eat clean eat about five to six small meals a day, this is believed to keep your body energized and burning calories all day long. Other principles of the lifestyle include drinking a lot of water, abstaining from alcohol, avoiding “white” this includes, white flour, white sugar, white bread and white pasta, and getting familiar with labels, this will help you choose foods that have few ingredients listed in turn meaning, closer to its natural state. For more tips on starting to eat clean visit this site.

7. Be prepared, always. Body builders and clean eaters love to “meal prep” it’s a day of the week, usually on Sunday where they cook all their food for the week or half of the week. This is to ensure that they never go hungry and continue to feed their muscles while they workout. Now, I’m not telling you to becoming a bodybuilder nor am I telling you to prepare your meals like crazy but I am advising you to be prepared. On the weekend cook a bigger portion of your dinner so that it can be frozen and reheated at a later date, when you don’t have time to cook. Meals that work best for batch cooking are chilis, soups, stews, and casseroles. Prepare your snacks, this will help prevent you from snacking on bag of chips or a bar of candy. (Healthy tip: season some kale with a little salt and olive oil, bake in the oven at 350 until crispy, kale chips!) Instead have a couple of fruits ready, or the power peanut butter celery couple. You could even try making your own trail mix. Do what it takes, but be prepared!

Now that you’ve been fully informed with tips and tricks to get healthy for the month of March, get out there and start applying them! Good luck and have a healthy and nutritious month. #nutritionforall

-Zariel Grullon

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