March is National Nutrition Month, a time to bring awareness and education to the public on the importance of nutrition and healthy lifestyles for overall well-being. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics first created National Nutrition Month in 1973, which means this year, we celebrate 50 years of learning from registered dietitians about making informed food choices and developing healthy habits around eating and physical activity.
This year’s theme is Fuel for the Future. Sustainability has been a trending topic in the food industry. We are committed to providing forward-thinking ways for our clients and customers to nourish themselves through our menus, wellness education materials, and engaging activities while protecting the environment. Following this year’s theme, Fuel for the Future, our registered dietitians have developed content to help engage and teach our guests. Enjoy this sneak peek into what our customers are learning as we celebrate National Nutrition Month!
To kick off National Nutrition Month, we start with nutrition tips to nourish the mind and energize the body with brain-healthy nutrients. The brain requires adequate fuel to keep up with all its functions. Like an expensive car, the brain performs best when it gets premium fuel, and there are three main macronutrients that keep it running: carbohydrates, fat and protein. Our dietitians discuss the sources of these macronutrients, such as avocados, nuts, fish, and whole grains, and how incorporating them into our diets keeps the mind sharp.
While bone health is important for all of us, in older adults prioritizing bone health is especially important as bone density can decrease, and risk of fractures can increase as we age. While bone changes naturally occur with aging, there are ways to help ensure bones are as healthy and strong as possible. Our dietitians recommend foods high in calcium and Vitamin D from fortified dairy products, fish, eggs, and leafy green vegetables. Staying active and getting outside to enjoy sunlight also helps to keep bones strong.
Food directly correlates to our planet. How food is grown, processed, and delivered are some ways it impacts our planetary health. Decreasing meat consumption two to three times per week can make a positive difference in a person’s health as well as the environment. A flexitarian diet focuses on eating more fruits, vegetables, and grains while decreasing the number of animal products consumed. Reducing meat in our diet reduces greenhouse gas emissions and land and water use. A sample recipe might feature a vegetarian whole-grain quinoa bowl, incorporating complex carbohydrate sources like butternut squash and black beans while punching up the flavor with a sweet chili cilantro sauce, proving that eating plant-based dishes can be flavorful and exciting. In line with our sustainability efforts, our dietitians recommend choosing local foods, recycling, eliminating plastic and using reusable bags – all of which help improve our planet’s health.
One of the hottest topics around nutrition right now is digestive health. A healthy gut contains bacteria that help support the immune system and a functioning GI tract for proper absorption of nutrients. Ingredients that best promote gut health include fruits, vegetables, beans, flaxseed, yogurt, kefir, kimchi and other fermented foods. Our dietitians educate residents on the differences between pre- and probiotics and the benefits for gut health.
Food is one of the many ways we connect with each other and experience diversity every day. In fact, the foods we eat today result from a collision of cultures dating back to America’s founding. What one eats is unique to the individual and incorporates influences from family, where they live and more. Our dietitian team recognizes that our customers have various experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives, all influencing food choices and preferences. Preferences are extensively considered in menu development but also identify areas where our teams can offer more diversified options.
Our dietitians collaborate with our team of professional chefs to feature recipes focused on sustainable ingredients. Events, such as chef tables, action stations and wellness seminars displaying our recipes and materials keep the conversation and interaction going throughout the month. It’s a great way to amplify conversations about wellness and promote nutrition.