National Nutrition Month:
Creating an Eating Style that Includes a Variety of Your Favorite, Healthful Foods

by Divya Denduluri (MS Nutritional Biology, CLEC), Nutrition Education Volunteer

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Eating healthy is not just easy, but delightful when it includes all your favorite foods with a healthful twist. Making small changes, one forkful at a time, to our eating habits goes a long way to keeping our families healthy and hearty.

Cooking and eating healthy at home includes:

Using whole grains including brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa, oats, buckwheat, millet and barley instead of their refined counterparts. It takes a while to get used to the taste of whole grains, but it’s worth it as they are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. One way to introduce whole grains into your diet is to mix whole grains with refined grains while cooking – gradually increasing the amount of whole grains you use and decreasing the amount of refined grains.

Substituting red meat and fatty cuts of meat with lean meat, seafood, beans, lentils and tofu. So save the Porterhouse and New York Strip steaks for special occasions.

Experimenting with family recipes to add a variety of fresh, canned or frozen vegetables and fruits. We use a lot of tamarind in south Indian cooking to add some tanginess. I discovered that, here in the United States, fresh cranberries, available in November and December are a great budget-friendly and nutritious substitute for tamarind. I now freeze a few packages of fresh cranberries that I use throughout the year.

Including nuts, seeds and plant-based oils along with fatty fish like salmon with your meals or snacks. These all contain healthy fats rich in omega-6 and omega-3 fats.

Finding innovative and healthful ways to satisfy your sweet-tooth. I enjoy making and eating date-sweetened desserts with nuts like almonds and pecans to add an extra crunch!

Keep in mind that these changes do not need to change the food you eat on a daily basis, but should help increase the vitality of those foods. I am from India, and enjoy eating Indian food including spicy curries, rice and dal. For a fiber and nutrient boost, I try to use beans and whole lentils instead of the split lentils traditionally used to make dal. I also enjoy exploring different cuisines to create new recipes with exciting flavors and healthful ingredients. I occasionally enjoy my marinara sauce with a hint of garam masala, an Indian spice mix, to add that extra heat.

Eating healthy while eating out is also important. Most restaurants offer healthy eating options nowadays. Asking for salad dressings and sauces on the side and portioning out or sharing your entree helps keep up a healthful lifestyle while enjoying all the foods you love!