National Nutrition Month: Tips for Healthy Eating
March is National Nutrition Month, and we’re all about nutrition at Harmony Co-op. It’s in our ends statements and built into the entire structure of the store—providing healthy, nutritious food to our community. While everyone has their own individualized dietary needs, preferences, and recommendations, there are a few basic guidelines that everyone can follow to ensure we’re getting the most we can out of what we eat.
*Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. This is an easy and fun way to make sure you’re getting the proper amounts you need, as well as helping you control your other portions. Don’t just eat a few from each food group, either—try to eat as much of a variety as you can of different textures and colors, as each of the vegetable “subgroups” (like dark green, red/orange, starchy, and legumes) contains different macro- and micro-nutrients necessary for optimal health. Try to stick to whole fruits as opposed to fruit juices; whole fruits contain dietary fiber, and fruit juice can contain added sugars.
*Whole grains. This means grains that have not been processed to remove the outer bran, as this is where the important nutrients are located (like fiber, iron, folic acid, vitamin B6, and many others). If consuming refined grains, make sure to choose the enriched versions as these have had some of the nutrients and vitamins added back in.
*Less sodium, saturated fat, and refined sugars. Sodium can raise blood pressure, saturated fat can contribute to arterial plaque, and refined sugars can affect weight and potentially lead to diabetes—all if consumed in excessive amounts. Saturated fat—generally fat that is solid at room temperature, like butter, tallow, or coconut oil—builds up on the inside of arteries, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke. Refined sugars (like white sugar) cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, affecting feelings of hunger and satiation (which can cause us to eat more); while unrefined sugars (like honey or fruit) have more health benefits and aren’t entirely empty calories, sugar at its most basic level is still sugar, so make sure not to eat too much of any sweet treat.
*Healthy varied protein. Protein is an important part of our diets as, among other things, it is the building block of our bodies; as our body doesn’t store excess like it does fat or carbohydrates, it’s something that we need to consume regularly. Proteins can be plant-based (beans, tofu, or even wheat gluten) or animal-based (eggs, fish, meat, and dairy); getting your protein from a variety of sources will help you get all the essential amino acids you need without getting too much fat or too little of other nutrients. (Plus, no one likes being stuck in a rut!)
Everyone’s body is different, and depending on your age, activity level, and other factors, you may need more or less of some things (an active teenager will need more protein, pregnant or breastfeeding people may require certain vitamins or extra calories). Sometimes you might even want to treat yourself to food that isn’t necessarily so healthy, and that’s fine too (as long as it’s a sometimes treat!). If you have dietary concerns or want to make a major change, you’ll want to check with your doctor first—but everyone can benefit from following the same basic guidelines and eating as fresh and varied a diet as possible. Remember not to get so fixated on eating the “right” “clean” foods that you stop enjoying what you eat, and don’t ever beat yourself up for not being “perfect” (because literally no one is). The more you love yourself and your body, whatever shape or size you happen to be, the easier it’ll be to take care of yourself and lead a life that’s both healthy and happy!