Start Eating Well this National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month, so what better time than now to start becoming healthier and happier through healthy eating and physical activity?

National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education campaign created every year in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It focuses attention on the importance of making healthy eating and physical activity choices.

The 2018 theme for National Nutrition Month is “Go Further with Food!” There are many reasons a person may want to start eating healthy and being physically active, including weight loss.

But there are many more benefits to a healthy lifestyle, including feeling better and a reduced risk of chronic diseases. For example, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of heart disease and may protect against certain types of cancers. Eating a diet high in fiber may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Every 5 years, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) release the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). These guidelines are recommended for Americans over the age of 2 years.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans key recommendations include:

❚ Eat a variety of vegetables from the five subgroups: dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy and other.

❚ Eat more fruit, particularly whole fruits. Your plate should be half fruits and vegetables at every meal.

❚ Eat more whole grains, like whole wheat bread, pasta, oats and brown rice. At least half of all grains eaten per day should be whole. If the first ingredient on a food package is “whole,” it is considered a good source of whole-grains.

❚ Eat more dairy products like fat-free or lowfat milk, yogurt and cheese. These foods have the same healthy vitamins and minerals as dairy products higher in fat (like 2 percent milk.)

❚ Eat a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans, peas and unsalted nuts and seeds.

Foods to avoid include:

❚ Eat less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars, which mainly come from soft drinks, candy and baked foods. Unless directed by a doctor, there are no limits to the amounts of natural sugars eaten in a day.

❚ Eat less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats. Saturated fats are found in beef, lamb, pork, butter, cheese, 2 percent milk, baked goods and fried foods. Choose foods that are higher in healthy fats (unsaturated fats), like liquid vegetable oil (instead of butter, for example), fish, avocado and unsalted nuts.

❚ Eat less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium. Per the American Heart Association, 77 percent of sodium comes from packaged, prepared or restaurant foods and not table salt. The six foods highest in sodium include lunch meats, pizza, soup, bread, chicken, burritos and tacos.

For more information, visit these three websites: Choose MyPlate, www.choosemyplate .gov, National Nutrition Month,, and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), //www.

Amanda Miller, MPH, is the FoodWIse coordinator and family living educator for Sheboygan and Fond du Lac Counties UW-Extension.