March is National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is “Get Your Plate in Shape.” To celebrate, below I outlined 31 ways to put more oomph into your food choices. Just like running or weightlifting gets your heart and muscles in shape, your diet requires some basic “old-school” calisthenics to keep it in top condition.
These 31 tips will instantly upgrade your diet and you should challenge yourself to follow each day’s tip for the entire month. At the end of the month, see how many new habits you can incorporate into your life. These tips will not only help you maintain a healthy weight, they’re designed to reduce risk for most chronic diseases that are linked to poor diets like heart disease, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and much more.
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31 Days and 31 Ways to Shape Up Your Diet
March 1: Is half of your plate (or bowl) filled with fruits and/or veggies? If not, add more of the healthiest, all-natural foods until your plate is appropriately balanced.
March 2: Frozen or canned produce can help you meet your daily produce quota. If it’s canned, look for lower-sodium options and fruit that are in water not syrup. When buying frozen fruit, be sure there’s no sugar added.
March 3: Beware of foods that sounds healthy but aren’t. Food labels that say “low-fat,” “gluten-free,” or “all-natural” may not be healthy. Many are loaded with added sugars or saturated fat. Look at the Nutrition Facts panel and ingredient lists before buying foods today. Know what you’re buying.
March 4: Hydrate with water. Sugary beverages supply more added sugars to the American diet than any food. Make a goal to drink half your body weight in fluid ounces of water. It will help you stop mindlessly eating too.
March 5: Write yourself slim by keeping a food journal today. That means write down everything you eat and drink and how you felt before and after eating. Try using the hunger scale in your journal too. If you can, try to journal 1-2 days during the week and one weekend day. It’s one of the best ways to keep your diet on the right path.
March 6: Step on the scale today. Yes, really! When was the last time you weighed yourself? If it’s been more than 3 months, it’s time. You’d be surprised how weighing yourself once a week or every other week helps to keep your waistline contained all year long.
March 7: Three-quarters of all sodium is in processed foods. Today, make sure your diet is comprised of foods that are natural and less processed.
March 8: Out of sight, out of mouth. If you have treats in your office or at home, be sure to keep them way out of sight and in an area that’s hard to reach. This has been shown to significantly reduce how many calories you’ll eat.
March 9: Spend at least 15 minutes outside today. If you can go for a quick walk or run, even better. Exercising outside helps improve mood and will help temper your stress hormones so that you’re less likely to suffer from anxiety-induced hunger.
March 10: Saturdays are the worst days for your diet. One way to keep it on track is to avoid alcohol. If you want to drink, limit it to only one drink.
March 11: If you’re not getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night, try to make a plan to get extra sleep tonight. People who sleep at least 7 hours our less likely to be overweight and they have fewer cravings. Try to get to bed earlier as night owls have a harder time controlling their body weight compared to early birds.
March 12: If you’re running on empty every day, be sure you’re making the most out of you’re a.m. meal. Try the new belVita breakfast biscuits for when you’re time-pressed in the am. They provide 230 calories, 4 grams protein, 3 grams fiber and are made with whole grains.
March 13: If you snack today, be sure it’s a fruit, vegetable or nuts. Our snacks are often highly processed foods that are rich in added sugars and saturated fats.
March 14: Use fat-free and low-fat dairy products because they have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as full-fat dairy products but with fewer calories and less harmful saturated fat.
March 15: Choose 100% whole grain breads, brown rice, barley, oats and other whole grain foods in place of refined choices.
March 16: Start your day with a wholesome breakfast like eggs or hot or cold cereal with fruit. Breakfasts that provide protein and/or fiber will help keep you fuller longer.
March 17: Happy St. Patrick’s Day. If you’re going to celebrate, opt for a light or new ultra-light beer. A light beer will set you back 100 calories and the new ultra-lights are down to 55 calories a bottle. That’s compared to 150 or more calories in a Guinness.
March 18: Start your day with our protein pancakes. It’s one of our favorite recipes and the protein, fiber and unsaturated fats will help keep you full all morning long.
March 19: Make today a “Meatless Monday.” Use beans, nuts and soyfoods today to get your protein and skip the animal-based products.
March 20: Most women get more than 20 teaspoons a day of added sugars. They provide no nutritional value to our diet—other than quick-burning energy that’s easily converted to fat. Today, try to meet the limits for added sugars set forth by the American Heart Association: 100 calories or 6 teaspoons. You’ll need to look at your food labels today and see if what you’re eating has added sugars.
March 21: Use heart-healthy oils like extra virgin olive in place of butter. You can use olive oil in most cases, even when baking some items, and no one will know the difference.
March 22: Eat only when you have a plate, utensils, table and chair. Do NOT eat in the car, in front of your desk or computer, at the movie theatre or when doing other activities. Eating while doing other activities often leads to eating twice as many calories before the brain realizes you’re full. When you eat, you should only eat so that your body and brain can help you stop before you’re too full.
March 23: Take 15 minutes of “me” time today. Do nothing, read go for a walk but tune out all of your responsibilities and focus on yourself.
March 24: Think before you drink. Sugary beverages are the number one source of added sugars in our diet. Today, go without fruit juice or beverages with added sugars. Stick to water, coffee, tea and fat-free or low-fat milk for your beverages today.
March 25: Enjoy a meal containing fish today. We all should strive to have fish at least twice a week.
March 26: Limit the number of meals you eat out this week. Eating meals out is consistently linked to being overweight so set a goal to prepare your meals this week.
March 27: When shopping, make sure 70% of your shopping cart is filled with items from the perimeter of the store like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat or fat-free dairy foods. If you bring home fewer treats and less nutritious processed food, you’ll eat less of them.
March 28: Having more protein and fewer carbohydrate-rich foods in your diet may help with weight loss and maintenance. Strive to get 1 gram of pound of LEAN body weight. For most women, that’s about 80-90 grams protein a day.
March 29: Pump up the fiber in your diet to help shed pounds. Here’s some great ways to add 10 grams fiber to your diet.
March 30: Add some high-intensity intervals to your workout. You’ll torch calories during your workout and you’ll get the added benefit of additional calorie burn off after you’ve stopped exercising.
March 31: Eat a rainbow of colorful foods. The color of fruits and vegetables is an indication of the disease-fighting antioxidants they provide. Strive to get at least three different colors in your diet each day, but more is even better.
-Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD