March is National Nutrition Month®, and this year’s theme is Eat Right, Bite by Bite- a message that emphasizes the importance of making small, sustainable changes in the diet.
Let’s face it; Rome was not built in one day. Your lifestyle habits were also developed over several years, maybe over your lifespan. That means these habits (good or bad) cannot be undone overnight. If you’ve never been a vegetable eater, it’s not likely you will start enjoying them all of a sudden because your doctor or dietitian said you should. The same goes for exercise, if you’ve always been active, you’ll probably continue to be active as you age. Think about the time and effort needed to make healthy habits a reality- like when developing the habit of teeth flossing or carrying a water bottle to improve hydration.
Bite by Bite is a way to remind you that making a healthy lifestyle change can be achieved by taking small, doable steps. Step by step or bite by bite can bring you closer to your health goals. When you are successful in making a small change, you feel empowered by the knowledge that success is possible, and this brings on more success. This concept is called self-efficacy which is your belief in your own abilities to deal with various situations. Since small steps are easier to achieve than giant leaps, you are increasing your chances of success by making one small change at a time. Here are a few examples of small steps to consider in honor of National Nutrition Month®:
- If you feel you should eat more fruits and vegetables, start with adding one additional portion to your day. Maybe you can sprinkle dry or fresh fruit in your morning cereal or yogurt, or add chopped tomato, carrot or onion to your spaghetti sauce.
- Consider switching one of your grain portions from refined to whole grain. Examples are eating oatmeal in the morning instead of puffed rice; choosing whole wheat bread instead of white bread, or including a side of quinoa or brown rice instead of white rice.
- Concerned about your blood cholesterol level? How about reducing your meat portion to the size of a deck of cards? This will help reduce the amount of harmful saturated fat in your diet.
- Switch from whole milk or cream to 1% reduced-fat milk in your coffee for an easy way to reduce fat and calories.
- Have at least one meatless meal per week. Choose a plant-based protein source such as legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds, or quinoa.
- Include one to two portions of fish per week. Fish is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids and is a lean protein source that has benefits for heart and brain health.
- Cut down on junk food in a way that is doable for you. Maybe it’s reducing your soda intake by one can each day, or swapping popcorn for potato chips.
Only you know what small change you can make in your diet. Pick a change that is important to you and that you know you can make- set yourself up for success! Once the small change has become a habit, you can then move on to another challenge. Ask yourself why you want to make the change and write it down as a reminder. Working with a health coach is another way to help you make changes in your diet and lifestyle that last. Bite by Bite, you can make a difference.
Are you finding it hard to pay for nutritious groceries? Learn about 3SquaresVT and CropCash which can help you stretch your food budget or find a food shelf near you by calling Age Well’s Helpline at 800-642-5119.
This March, you can also support access to healthy nutritious meals here in Vermont by joining Age Well’s March for Meals. Throughout the month of March, hundreds of Meals on Wheels programs across the country reach out to their communities to establish a network of support that will enable them to serve America’s seniors all year long. As the largest Meals on Wheels provider in Vermont, Age Well oversees 60 routes, serving over 225,000 meals each year. A volunteer team of 500 drivers delivers meals to older Vermonters every day of the week.
Not only are we are experiencing a significant increase in the number of individuals who need our services, but we are also facing uncertainty in receiving Federal and State funding. To avoid waitlists and to ensure that aging Vermonters maintain their independence and health, we ask for your support in helping to take care of those who once took care of us. Learn more about getting involved visit Agewellvt.org/marchformeals.
Brigitte Harton is a consultant Registered Dietitian at Age Well and a Board Certified Wellness Coach. For more information about the services Age Well provide such as community meals and Meals on Wheel, call the Helpline at 800-642-5119 or visit AgewellVT.org.