Sometimes changing something we don’t like requires changing the way we think about it. If, for instance, you’re trying to tackle the herculean task of losing weight and keeping it off, you may have to do a lot of rethinking and reevaluating. March is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ National Nutrition Month, which is designed to encourage everyone – not just those looking to drop a few pounds – to be more conscious of the foods we’re eating and where those foods come from. Doing these two things definitely requires some thinking, particularly if you’re used to eating what you want and paying no attention to its origins or its effects on the environment.
Blount Memorial registered dietitian Whitney Roberts says National Nutrition Month is the perfect time to reconsider some things about our diets. “The theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month is ‘Go Further with Food,’” she said. “The idea is that, by making small changes to the way we think about eating, we can help reduce food waste and refuel our bodies. Studies show more than 30 percent of all edible food in the United States is wasted, and American households throw away nearly 28 percent of fruits and vegetables. One of the first steps we all can take toward reducing food waste is to learn how to properly read dates on our foods. Remember that if a food product has a ‘Use By’ date, you should throw it away for safety reasons if that date has passed. On the other hand, if a product has a ‘Best If Used By’ date on it, that’s an indicator of peak freshness, not safety. And thirdly, a simple ‘Sell By’ date on a product is there to ensure the retailer pulls it off the shelf in time, and doesn’t necessarily mean that it is unsafe if that date has passed,” Roberts explained. “Learning how to properly store foods, too, can help maximize the freshness of the foods you buy and prevent waste,” she added.
“Preparing meals in advance is a great way to be more conscious of what you’re eating,” Roberts continued. “It helps you eat healthy and saves you more time throughout the week. Whenever possible, be sure to make meals using ingredients you already have around the house, which means checking the refrigerator before going to the store. This helps us consume what we have before we buy more, thus helping eliminate further food waste. Also, when you’re food shopping, consider shopping locally as much as possible. It’s a great way to add healthful foods to your diet, while also conserving natural resources. For instance, foods purchased at a farmer’s market often are more affordable and taste better because they’re locally grown and naturally ripened, which is not usually the case with foods you find at the grocery store,” she explained. “While you’re there, you also can talk with farmers to learn some unique food preparation ideas for different foods that you’re buying,” she added.
Roberts says while this type of thinking – or rethinking – isn’t difficult, it can have big benefits. “Being more aware of what we’re eating takes a little getting used to, but when we’re aware of the food choices we’re making, we’re more likely to make better choices that have benefits for both our bodies and the world around us,” she explained.