10 Ways to Prepare for National Nutrition Month

Add veggies to breakfast, don't eat with your wallet and cook a meal with a kid.

By + More

I'm always a little sad when February draws to a close – it's the month that holds National Wear Red Day to support heart health for women, Valentine's Day, National Almond Day and ... my birthday! But March brings a celebration that should last all year for everyone, everywhere. It's National Nutrition Month.

This year's NNM theme is "Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right," highlighting that nutritious and delicious can coexist. As the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics underscores: "This year's key messages for NNM focus on how to combine taste and nutrition to create healthy meals.”

[Watch: Top Chefs Talk Healthy Eating.] 

Consumer surveys reflect that the number one driver for why we choose the foods we eat is taste, followed by variables like price, convenience and health/nutrition. Though each of these attributes are noteworthy, nothing seems to trump taste.

“Remember that we first eat with our eyes,” says registered dietitian Amy Myrdal Miller, senior director of culinary nutrition for The Culinary Institute of America. "So focus on making foods beautiful.” Myrdal Miller points out that “even a small garnish like some minced parsley on a pasta dish can make the dish look more appealing, which in turn affects our sensory response to the flavors, textures and temperature of the food.” Never underestimate the power of aesthetics, including the right blends of color and flavor. Such techniques are particularly important when it comes to serving vegetables.

[Read: How Do We Get Kids to Like Healthy Foods?]

Although most of us don't need a "National Something Month" to inspire us to change a faulty habit, campaigns like NNM bring to light the importance of eating healthfully and the ways it can make you look and feel fantastic, inside and out. To help you celebrate NNM, here are 10 simple tips to jump-start good habits that will hopefully become contagious and spread throughout your family:

1. Invite veggies to breakfast. Add some carrots, kale or sweet potato to your smoothie. Here’s an irresistible recipe that also doubles as a late afternoon snack.

2. Unless you’re eating at a very expensive restaurant, your portions are probably too big. If you eat everything on your plate, you're letting the chef judge how much you need.

3. Don’t confuse thirst and hunger. If you feel like eating when you shouldn’t be hungry, grab a mug of tea and step away from the kitchen.

4. Swap out fats that have no value (like mayo), and add fats with benefits like nuts and avocado.

[Read: Healthy Substitutes for Mayonnaise.]

5. Ditch the salt in the shaker and fill it with a blend of your favorite seasonings and spices.

6. Just eat when you eat. Multitasking at mealtime can pile on mega-calories without you even appreciating the bites you’re taking.

7. Don’t eat with your wallet. Yes, you're paying for the meal. But you wouldn’t want to pay twice by regretting that you overate.

8. Don’t let the scale dictate your mood. It doesn’t have a mouth, mind or means of communicating with you – you’re the only one who is in charge of your weight.

[Read: How to Talk to a Friend About an Eating Disorder.]

9. Cook a meal with a kid. Whether it’s a brother, sister, friend, neighbor or your own child, sharing a meal from start to finish will teach a lesson for a lifetime and create a bond that will be shared and savored.

10.  Don’t wait until you’re at your goal weight to buy yourself a new item of clothing. Dress the body you have – not the one you hope to attain.

For more information on how to tailor your diet to meet your particular medical and personal needs, you can consult with a registered dietitian nutritionist. Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at eatright.org to find an RDN near you. And if you have questions about NMN, email the Academy at nnm@eatright.org

Which healthy habit can you add to my list?

[Read: Diet Success Stories: Dieters Reveal How They Hit Their Target Body Weight.]