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For the 40th anniversary of National Nutrition Month in 2013, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (as the ADA is now known) is going back to basics – but not back in time.
For today’s disparate lifestyles, cultures, food preferences and health concerns, Americans are encouraged to follow the basic principles of healthy eating, but in a way that is meaningful and thus more beneficial for their individual diets and circumstances.
"There's no one-size-fits-all way to eat that's right for everyone," said registered dietitian and Academy spokesperson Jim White. "In reality, if the diet doesn't fit with your lifestyle and unique needs, it won't work in the long-term and can even leave you missing out on the nutrition you need to get you through the day."
When it comes to individual eating plans, people’s favorite foods aren’t crossed entirely off the list. In fact, it is the official position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that total diet or overall pattern of food eating is the most important focus of healthy eating.
Taken a step further, that means that favorite foods can be a part of that healthy eating pattern when consumed in moderation and in conjunction with some physical activity. "There can be a misperception that eating healthfully means giving up your favorite foods," noted registered dietitian and Academy president Ethan A. Bergman. “Our 'Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day' National Nutrition Month theme encourages consumers to include the foods they love as part of a healthful eating plan that is tailored for their lifestyles, traditions, health needs and tastes."
To help consumers develop diets that work for them, the Academy has added helpful tools based on this year’s theme to its National Nutrition Month website. The site includes healthy eating and shopping tips, games, and various educational resources.
While eating plans are getting personal, some of the Academy’s tips are applicable to specific occasions or personality types.
For those who spend long days at work, the Academy suggests keeping single-serve packages of crackers, fruit, peanut butter or low-sodium soup at one’s desk. For those on the go, tips include keeping portable, nonperishable foods in a backpack or briefcase. Sporting enthusiasts and athletes are encouraged to eat a light breakfast or snack before they exercise, such as low-fat yogurt, graham crackers and peanut butter or a cereal and banana with low-fat milk. College and high school students, meantime, can stick to both a healthy diet and a strict budget with foods that combine protein and carbs, like apples with peanut butter or carrots and hummus. And those preparing meals for their families can keep things simple by building a recipe file of healthy and quick meals and encouraging kids to get involved in meal preparation.