It’s a new month and that means we want to bring new awareness to you! March is a month filled with events, celebrations and observances! March has National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, Brain Injury Awareness Month, Craft Month, Kidney Month and so many more. BUT it’s also National Nutrition Month and in honor of that we are going to look at some nutrition basics and how we can all nourish ourselves better not only this month but all year long too! After two years of less than a “normal” time, many of us could use a refresher to get back on track and nourish our bodies with proper nutrition to feel great!
What is nutrition? According to https://www.dictionary.com/browse/nutrition one definition says Nutrition: noun: the act or process of nourishing or of being nourished.
What sticks out to us in the definition is the word, “nourish.” Which the same website defines as a verb meaning: “to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth.” When you think about it, are the foods you are putting into your body nourishing you? Are they giving you what you need for health, growth and life? One way to find out is to check their labels. The good news is many of the foods that “nourish” us don’t even come with labels. We’re talking fruits and veggies here. Many of them are coming to you in their natural packaging and you can trust that they are filled with many of the vitamins and minerals our bodies need for not just health, but great health, great growth, and great lives. To do this we need a balanced diet of nourishing foods.
Yet not all foods are created equal and that is where the nutrition facts and ingredients lists come into play to help you decipher whether a food is going to nourish you or dismay you. Some people may argue that food that nourishes you would be a single ingredient food such as chicken, milk, nuts, beans, oats, and so on. They aren’t wrong. But not all single-ingredient foods can be eaten in excess and some really should be “sometimes foods,” as Cookie Monster would say, such as bacon, beef, dried fruit, etc. Some foods that even while being a single ingredient, can be very caloric, fat-laden and full of sugar. So before you change your diet to just single-ingredient foods, think about how you can balance out your calories, fats, carbohydrates and sugars.
For those foods that do have multiple ingredients, you want to make sure you are checking out their labels. If a food has a long list of ingredients like say, cheese-flavored nacho chips, do you think they are really that nourishing? Chances are they are filled with a lot of processed ingredients, flavor additives and colorings. Whereas a whole grain cracker may list just three ingredients like whole grains, oil, salt. When in doubt if you are choosing between two items, look for the one with the shorter list of ingredients.
Aside from ingredients we also want to see what the value of the nutrients is. To do that you must see what the serving size of this product is and that should be listed on the top of the label. Then it will tell you how many calories are in each serving. If you plan to eat the whole thing you will need to multiply those calories by the number of servings. Next will be the fats cholesterol, sodium, and carbohydrates. We recommend that you talk to your doctor about how much of these you should consume but in general something with 5% or lower is considered “low or healthy” while 20% or more is considered “high or unhealthful.” The opposite is true for the next few items you will see like dietary fiber, protein, and vitamins and minerals. For these a 20% or more is considered a good thing, because we need that fiber and vitamins and minerals in our lives.
While each of us has different dietary needs, we all have the same goal. We want to be nourished so we can be healthy, have proper growth and rebuilding, sleep well, play well, and lead a fully nourished life. Taking a simple step like reading food labels and picking options based on what can best nourish us can reap huge rewards. Look for foods that will nourish you more than others. Find ways to fill up on fruits, veggies and low ingredient foods like lean meat and dairy along with whole grains and more. If the slogan is true, “you are what you eat,” and we want to feel well, then let’s eat well!
Director of The Wellness Center