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Do we really understand how much good nutrition plays in our everyday health?

March 03, 2016

In celebration of National Nutrition Month – sponsored each March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – Americans are encouraged to return to the basics of healthful eating.

This year’s theme, “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” encourages the adoption of a healthy lifestyle that is focused on enjoying healthful foods.

“The goal of this year’s campaign is to draw extra attention not only to food choices, but also to the how, when and why we eat. National Nutrition Month is a great time of the year for everyone to embrace a mindful eating pattern that includes nutritious and flavorful foods, while taking the time to enjoy the traditions and social experiences food can bring,” said Allison Clark, RD, a registered dietitian in Food and Nutrition Services at Baystate Medical Center.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics identifies three key strategies to help everyone “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.” Three Baystate Medical Center registered dietitians offer their thoughts on these strategies:

Enjoy Food Traditions and Social Experiences

There is an obvious social component to food. Whether it is a nightly family dinner, a special holiday occasion or social gathering, food often plays a central role.

“Research shows that family meals promote physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. What a great way to start traditions and promote healthful eating habits that will last a lifetime. It can be as simple as build-your-own salad night with a variety of toppings to choose from. Take turns choosing meals and include everyone in the cooking process,” said Clark.

Appreciate Foods, Pleasures and Flavors

Take time to appreciate the flavors, textures and overall eating experience. In today's busy world, we often eat quickly and mindlessly. Instead, try following this tip to help you savor the flavor of your food: eat slowly.

“Spring is coming and it’s time to spice up your life. Dust off your shelves and restock your arsenal of herbs and spices. Remember to use dried herbs in cooking and fresh herbs for garnishing,” said Baystate’s Paul Halloran, RD.

Develop a Mindful Eating Pattern

How, when, why and where you eat is just as important as what you eat. Being a mindful eater can help you reset both your body and your mind and lead to an overall healthier lifestyle.

“Mindful eating may lead to eating with intention. When you slow down and trust your internal cues, you become aware of physical hunger and let signs of feeling full guide your decisions of when to start and stop eating. Simply taking the time to chew food can slow you down and help you enjoy each eating experience,” said Baystate’s Lisa Laprade, RD, who noted eating with chopsticks or putting down the fork between bites are just two examples of ways to achieve slower eating.

“Try to remove distractions from mealtimes, make it a device-free time and sit at the table. Growing or cooking your own food are additional ways to become more connected to your food and may make you more conscious of what you eat,” she added.

Consult a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

According to Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson Kristen Gradney, RDN, LDN, a registered dietitian can educate and guide individuals on their food choices while keeping their tastes and preferences in mind.

“Registered dietitians are able to separate facts from fads and translate nutritional science into information that you can use,” she said.

Baystate Health’s Nutrition Service (outpatient nutrition) is staffed by registered and licensed dietitians who empower patients to reach their health goals through a personalized nutrition assessment with simple and practical solutions. To make an appointment, call 413-794-4772.

For more information on Baystate Medical Center, visit baystatehealth.org/bmc.