March is Nutrition Month, so make the most of it! Let’s get real, raw and down to the roots for Nutrition Month with a self-guided challenge to help cultivate a healthier mindset around food. Check out the Real Foodie checklist below. You have 31 days to experiment with these 20 ideas. Here’s how to score yourself:
- Master Real Foodie: Completes everything on the list below. Congrats on mastering eating for good health!
- Foodie Fighter: Completes half the items on the list. Nice focus on making healthy choices, keep chopping to the next level.
- Food Court: Completes less than 5 items on the list. Yes, you have landed in court, but there is always next month to try again!
20 Ideas for 31 Days of March
- Only eat when you feel hungry. Hunger eating helps combat weight gain. Try not to use food for coping (e.g. snacking due to being bored or stressed). Find new ways to cope when the urge to snack creeps in like meditating, going for a walk, calling a friend, keeping busy with a project, dancing to music, or reading a book.
- Food visibility in the home may predict obesity. Remove food out of sight in the kitchen and workspace. Put all food in proper storage spaces.
- Remain mindful when eating each meal. Make sure every bite, morsel to mouth—is an experience. Pause between bites. Notice the feel, texture and taste in the mouth. Take time with the meal. Give thanks for the meal. Mindful eating practices can help mental wellness.
- Avoid distracted eating. Give each meal your full attention without interruptions. Turn off all media feeds during meals. Unplugging can positively influence your mood, too.
- Movement after a meal can lower blood sugar. Take a quick walk after each meal.
- Get earthy after each meal. Enjoy the great outdoors (weather permitting) after each meal. Spending time in nature can be good for your mental health.
- Experiment with plant-based foods and recipes. Healthy plant-based food may be associated with living healthier and longer.
- Reframe the idea of having to eat everything on the plate. Experiment with eating less to feel comfortable after a meal, versus feeling like you need a nap.
- Reduce salt consumption. Because the average American eats so much excess sodium, even cutting back by 1,000 milligrams a day can significantly improve blood pressure and heart health. Track salt/sodium intake for a week, and stay within guidelines. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults.
- Reduce added or refined sugar intake. Added sugars provide little nutrition value and can interrupt normal blood glucose levels. Meals should fall within sugar guidelines for the American Heart Association’s recommendations for sugar intake. Men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams or 150 calories) of added sugar per day. For women, the number is lower: 6 teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories) per day.
- Avoid packaged flavoring. Use olive oil, vinegar, spices and herbs to healthily enhance your meals without fillers. Include healthy fats – Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and fish—especially the polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids—are important components of a healthy diet and are also essential for cardiac health.
- Pre-plan or meal prep your weekly eating menu and grocery list. On Sunday, write down your healthy meal menu for each day for the entire week to stay on track and avoid extra grazing and calories.
- Understand protein needs. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Include a variety of quality protein sources with each meal ranging from lean meats and poultry to fish, eggs, nuts, legumes, pulses and/or plant-based options. Results from the Nurses’ Health Study suggest that eating more protein from beans, nuts, seeds, and the like, while cutting back on easily digested carbohydrates, reduces the risk of heart disease
- Experiment with eating less. Split meals in half and create leftovers for two meals. This can save you money and help reduce calories which may lead to weight loss.
- Kitchen curfew. Set a time to close down the kitchen. No eating after the kitchen is closed to stop late-night grazing and reduce calories which may help with weight loss.
- Support your local community and farms. Search for a local CSA (community supported agriculture) near you or visit a local farm.
- Start the day with mindful practice such as making the bed, a sun salutation or gratitude—remind yourself that food is nourishment to form the habit of consciously nourishing the body.
- Research how to grow a garden and begin a gardening adventure. Visit a home and garden event (virtually or in-person), plant a tree or grow a garden. Science supports that gardening is beneficial to our health.
- Experiment with healthy Pho recipes. Pho is a common Vietnamese soup dish consisting of herbal broth and rice noodles. Vietnam has the lowest percentage of obesity.
- Don’t obsess over food, obsess over purpose instead! Do you have a tricky relationship with food? Swap out thoughts surrounding food and replace those thoughts with a higher purpose. Transfer dieting efforts and energy into something greater than food—find a new hobby, volunteer, seek out a support network, join a local recreation program, or be a mentor for someone else.
Bonus: Celebrate “real” foodie wins (e.g. time spent preparing a real meal, strolling after each meal and eating when feeling hungry). Positively praise yourself for taking time for good health. Create a fun celebratory cheer or dance to honor your moments of success.