Put best fork forward for National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month, and this year the focus is on putting your best fork forward. February ended with Paczki Day, or Fat Tuesday, and this month we can start fresh by choosing to fill our forks with more nutritious, better-for-you options. Putting our best fork forward this month can mean eating more fruits and vegetables with every meal, choosing more whole grains and reaching for more nutritious snacks. These are all simple ways we can improve our plates and step forward towards better health.

Put your best fork forward by eating more fruits and vegetables at every meal. Including a variety of fruits and vegetables on your plate provides essential nutrients your body needs such as Calcium for healthy bones and teeth, Iron to carry oxygen in the blood, Vitamin A for healthy eyes and skin, and Vitamin C for healing cuts and wounds. Different colors provide different nutrients, so it is important to include as many colors as possible. Fresh, frozen, canned and dried forms of fruits and vegetables all count! For frozen varieties, choose plain varieties without sauces or added sugar. Select canned fruit in 100 percent juice rather than in heavy syrup, and canned vegetables that are reduced sodium or without added salt. Whether fresh, frozen, canned or dried, aim to fill half your plate with a colored variety to put your best fork forward.

Put your best fork forward by choosing more whole grains rather than refined grains. Refined grains have been processed and stripped of some of their important nutrients. Although some of the important nutrients have been added back into the product, it still does not provide other nutrients not replaced and does not contain as much fiber and protein as a whole grain would. A true whole grain can be identified by looking at the first few ingredients listed on the nutrition label, which should read “whole grain” or “whole wheat.” To put your best fork forward, aim to make at least half your grains whole. You can increase the amount of whole grains you eat by choosing whole grain varieties of breads, cereals, crackers, pastas and rice.

Put your best fork forward by reaching for more nutritious snacks. While pre-packaged and processed snacks may appear more convenient, they contain little nutritious value. Opt for a more nutritious snack consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, or reduced-fat milk or dairy products. These delicious options will leave you feeling better and provide more of the good stuff your body needs and wants. Put your best fork forward with more nutritious snack options that will better fuel your body and mind!

Whether it’s eating more fruits and vegetables, choosing more whole grains or reaching for more nutritious snacks, you can put your best fork forward and step into a healthier lifestyle.

Samantha Daily is currently a dietetic intern at the University of Wisconsin- Green Bay.