What comes to mind when you think about putting your best fork forward? There are so many ways that we can improve our health and nutrition through the choices we make when it comes to eating and drinking. This year, in honor of National Nutrition Month and the theme of ‘put your best fork forward’, we have chosen to focus on three areas of nutrition to help you improve your eating habits: meal planning, choosing more whole grains, and selecting healthier beverages. Let’s get started!
Meal planning can seem like an impossible task, but once you get the hang of it you will save time, money, and have the confidence in knowing that you and your family will have healthier balanced meals all week long. First, select 3-4 recipes that you think your family will enjoy, either from blogs like ours, healthy cookbooks, or websites like www.Pinterest.com. Look to the USDA guidelines and MyPlate to ensure each meal you plan includes at least 3 food groups to enhance the nutritional benefits. To learn more about the food groups and balance eats check out our blog! For example, one night you can enjoy our Pecan Crusted Chicken, but you need to find two more food groups to go along with it. For ease, steam up a bag of frozen vegetables and add a scoop of whole grain couscous! Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be a drang when you meal plan. Create your shopping list in categories to ensure your shopping trip will be a breeze: produce, canned goods, meats, dairy, etc. This will in turn save you money; no more random frozen bag of lima beans sitting in the freezer for months because you don’t know what to do with it! Last, just because you select healthier recipes to prepare doesn’t mean they have to be boring, bland, and kid-disapproved! Taco Tuesday and any other beloved genre of food can be transformed into a healthy and balanced meal the whole family will love. Click here to get 5 nights of easy dinner ideas!
Another way we think to put our best fork forward is to choose more whole grains each day. The USDA recommends that we make half of our grain choices throughout the day whole grains. Whole grain products include all three parts of the grain kernel: the germ, endosperm and bran. This is where the added benefits to your heart health, cholesterol and digestive system are! Hello fiber! Food items in the grain group include bread, pasta, popcorn, tortillas, rice, barley, and oats. These days it is easier than ever to find a delicious whole grain tortilla or pasta to swap out with the white flour versions to help aim towards this goal. The great thing about grains is that it is super easy to find ways to include them at every meal! For breakfast, try our yummy Creamy Spiced Pear Quesadilla using a whole grain tortilla! At lunchtime, throw together this Spicy Tuna Bowl with brown rice. Finally, at dinner, add whole wheat naan bread to go with flavorful Better Indian Butterless Chicken or our Indian Inspired Vegetable and Barley Soup, which is loaded with whole grains! Easy boxed grains like couscous, wild rice mixes, and prepackaged oatmeal are great when you don’t have a lot of time, but want to ensure you and your family are getting in those whole grains!
A Few Examples of Grains
Whole Wheat Flour & Bread,
Whole Grain Bread
Barley (except pearl), Farro, Oats
Staying hydrated can be a difficult task, especially when you are not a big drinker. Selecting the right kind of beverages is the key to not only working towards the goal of hydrating your body, but to also nourish it. Star drinks like water as well as low-fat and nonfat milk are some of the best choices to hydrate without added calories or sugar. While fruit and vegetable juices can provide your family with nutritious vitamins and minerals, be sure to choose 100% juices and limit the amount you consume due to it containing little to no fiber and a lot of sugar. Sports drinks and soda, although they can help to hydrate you, are loaded with sugar and empty calories. Coffee and tea are a favorite for many and are naturally zero calories, but beware of overdoing it as they can actually lead to dehydration and easily become unhealthy with loads of added sugar and creamer. Try our 3 Refreshing Iced Teas, which are sweetened naturally!
Here are 9 easy tips to help you stay hydrated and get you and your family drinking more water:
- Add fresh fruit slices to naturally add flavor and sweetness to your water (lemons, limes, oranges, strawberries, mangos)
- Try seltzer water or club soda if you enjoy fizz (rather than soda)
- Have a broth based soup with lunch or as an appetizer with dinner
- Limit caffeinated tea and coffee as well as alcohol, they can actually dehydrate you
- Measure the amount of water your favorite water bottle holds so you can have a goal of how many times to fill it up throughout the day
- Make a smoothie with hydrating low-fat or nonfat milk and frozen fruit
- Aim for 9 servings of fruits and vegetables throughout the day, they help hydrate you too
- Download an app to help you track your water intake each day, like Waterlogged by Day Logger, Inc.
- Sip on water before each meal and after you go to the bathroom
There are many many ways to put your best fork (and glass) forward to improve your family’s nutrition. Meal planning, eating more whole grains and staying hydrated with healthy beverage choices is just the beginning! Making small steps and goals each day to put your best fork forward can help you and your family live a healthier and more nourished life.