2023 Theme for Nutrition Month
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Fuel for the Future is the theme for National Nutrition Month. March has been designated as nutrition month since 1973 and was created to bring awareness of the importance of making informed food choices and developing healthful eating habits.
This year’s theme focuses on eating with sustainability in mind. What does this mean? It is a way to fuel our bodies while helping protect the environment. Keys to eating with the environment in mind include enjoying more plant-based meals and snacks, purchasing foods with minimal packaging, buying foods in season and shopping locally, and starting a container or backyard garden to grow food at home.
Eating more plant-based meals and snacks means a healthier you as well as a healthier planet. Choosing more plant-based protein foods such as beans and lentils in place of animal-based protein foods is one way to reduce your carbon footprint. Plant-based eating styles use fewer natural resources and have been associated with less damage to the environment. Don’t eliminate meat from your diet, just substitute beans occasionally in your recipes. Make it fun for the whole family with a Meatless-Monday or a Taco-Tuesday meal.
When choosing packaged food at the store, try to purchase those with minimal packaging. Buying in bulk helps reduce the amount of plastic, paper, metal, and energy that goes into manufacturing packages. If bulk isn’t available, look for larger “family” sizes rather than individual sizes. In addition to reducing the packaging you bring home, try composting some of your food waste. Rather than filling the trash can with fruit and vegetable scraps, save them to nourish your garden. Speaking of trash, take your own reusable bags to the store to lessen the impact of petroleum-based plastic bags.
Whenever possible, buy foods in season and shop local. A variety of fresh produce is available year-round, but all of it is not “in-season”. Strawberries, for example, are on store shelves all year long, but are only in season during spring. The berries available the rest of the year are likely grown far away and are typically more expensive. At the grocery store, look for items from local farms or shop at the farmers market. Another option is community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs that provide weekly produce boxes. When shopping at the farmers market, don’t shy away from vegetables that are unfamiliar to you. Farmers want you to ask questions about their products and they are happy to share ways to prepare them. Since item availability changes often, shop with flexibility in mind. Most vegetables can be interchanged in recipes and salads can be any combination you choose, so be creative and adventurous in your food selections. Remember to take along reusable bags or baskets to carry your purchases home. Buying locally grown food saves fossil fuels used for long-distance transport, allows you to take advantage of fresher and less expensive foods, and it supports local farmers and keeps dollars in the community.
Growing food at home is another aspect of sustainable eating that provides many benefits. It saves extra trips to the grocery store, gives a greater appreciation for farming, and offers a fun way to be physically active. If you do not have a backyard or access to space for a garden, try container gardening on a patio or windowsill. Herbs, cucumbers, and tomatoes grow well in containers.