Three nutritional priorities for a healthier lifestyle

Eric wright
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Eating nutrient-dense foods, proper portions, and limiting sugary drinks are important throughout the year. Since March is National Nutrition Month, however, it’s worth taking a closer look at these three priorities that can contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

National Nutrition Month is an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics awareness campaign with weekly focus areas and tips on This year’s theme is “Personalize Your Plate” in recognition that we all have different backgrounds and cultural preferences, but can still make healthy choices through our diet and physical activity.

Including nutrient-dense foods in your diet is a key part of healthy eating. When you eat foods rich in the nutrients your body needs in your diet, you will have a healthy immune system that can protect you from seasonal illnesses and other health problems.

Beta carotene is a key nutrient that you can find in carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, peppers and strawberries. Protein is another important nutrient that you get from seafood, lean meats, eggs, and non-animal sources like beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.

These are just a few of the essential nutrients that you need to make sure you’re getting through your diet.

Keeping track of the correct portion sizes is a key part of healthy eating. Each different type of food has a different serving size and serving size.

The serving size is just a standardized amount of food, but the serving size is how much you choose to eat. These two things may be different, but it’s important to know the difference so that when you check the nutritional information on a serving of food, you can know how much of the nutrient you are consuming.

Some tips to help you visualize these sizes: 1 cup is roughly the size of a fist or baseball; 1/2 cup is about the size of a tennis ball or a small, picked up handful; 3 ounces is about the size of a deck of cards or your palm; one tablespoon is roughly the size of your thumb; a teaspoon is about the size of a postage stamp or the tip of your index finger.

Finally, limiting sugary drinks can help you maintain a healthy diet. Many people unknowingly consume significant amounts of sugar through drinks such as juices, sodas, sweet tea, and sports drinks. The best advice is to drink water.

Water should be everyone’s main drink throughout the day. You should aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces each day, so if you weigh 200 pounds, shoot for 100 ounces of water per day.

Limiting sodas, whether dietetic or sweet, is essential; don’t aim for more than 12 ounces per day. Sports drinks are devious when it comes to their sugar content. They may seem like a healthy choice, but avoid them unless you are actively participating in sport.

Throughout March, keep these three ideas in mind and start – or continue – healthy eating habits for National Nutrition Month.

Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to healthy eating, so personalize your plate with these guiding principles in mind.

For more information on this and many more, contact the Etowah County Extension Office, 256-547-7936 or 3200 A W. Meighan Blvd., Gadsden. Eric Wright is Extension Coordinator for the Etowah County Extension Office.

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