Every March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) educates consumers about good nutrition and health via their month-long celebration, National Nutrition Month.® This year’s theme – “Celebrate a World of Flavors” – reminds us that embracing the cultural foods and traditions that already shape our eating habits can contribute to a balanced diet. It also invites us to step outside of our comfort zone to learn about and try foods from other cultures.
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What “Celebrate a World of Flavors” means to me
Being a dietitian, I always find something I can relate to in the National Nutrition Month materials. What I like about this year’s theme is that it encourages us to revisit and embrace our own culinary heritages, whatever those may be.
My cultural food heritage is a combination of Italian (on my mom’s side) and Eastern European (on my dad’s side). Growing up, my mom made a variety of foods from both these food cultures. We would have pasta with “Italian gravy” (a.k.a. pasta sauce), always made using my grandmother’s special recipe. Or we would eat Polish foods, like kielbasa with cabbage and pierogi.
Oftentimes when we would visit my dad’s family, my mom would collect recipes from his relatives. Over the years, these became incorporated into our meal times. Some of these foods would be made more frequently (like Golumpki), while other times the recipes were reserved for special occasions (like Babka at Christmas or Easter).
To this day these are comfort foods for me. When I eat them, they obviously nourish my body by providing nutrition. But just as importantly, they also nourish my spirit. They remind me of family members who have passed on, and they bring back memories of gatherings from long ago. And even though my dietary preferences have changed over the years, I have been able to keep the spirit of these recipes alive by making versions of them for my own family.
”Celebrate a World of Flavors” National Nutrition Month messages
Now that you’ve heard a little bit about my food heritage, I invite you to consider your own. What foods did you eat growing up that you would like to eat again? What foods do you still eat that are comfort foods to you?
These foods can be a part of a balanced, nutritious diet. In fact, “Celebrate a World of Flavors” reminds us of these tips for eating healthy:
- Eat a variety of nutritious foods
- Plan your meals and snacks
- Create tasty foods at home
- Enjoy your meals with friends or family, when possible
- See a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)
I’ll be touching on these topics below, but I won’t be covering everything in detail. Check out the Academy’s website for National Nutrition Month to find out more.
“Celebrating flavors from cultures around the world is a tasty way to nourish ourselves and appreciate our diversity. We are all unique with different bodies, goals, backgrounds and tastes! A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can help you create healthy habits that celebrate your heritage and introduce you to new foods and flavors.”
How to “Celebrate a World of Flavors” in your life
Eat a variety of nutritious foods
In order to have a healthy, balanced diet, it is important to eat a variety of nutritious foods. While this is common knowledge, it can be hard to put into practice. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut of eating the same things over and over again.
You can add variety to your diet and “Celebrate a World of Flavors” by trying new foods from around the world. Try a new restaurant, or visit an ethnic grocery store. Better yet, ask a friend with a different cultural food background to share a meal together. Find new foods and dishes you like, and expand the repertoire of nutritious foods you eat.
Plan your meals and snacks
I am obviously a huge proponent of meal planning, since I talk about it a lot on this blog. I think planning your meals and snacks in advance is an excellent way to ensure a more balanced diet.
There are many different ways to meal plan, and there is no one “right” or perfect system.
A 30,000 foot overview of meal planning includes:
- Writing down in advance what you plan to eat
- Using that meal plan to make a grocery list
- Using that grocery list to purchase nutritious foods
- Preparing the foods on your meal plan
If you would like more details about meal planning, you can check out this post.
Create tasty foods at home
Preparing your own foods at home gives you so much more control over what goes into (and what stays out of) your diet. However, there are a number of perfectly valid reasons people don’t cook more meals at home. Lack of cooking skills, lack of time, and just plain not liking to cook are a few of them.
If you are not doing a lot of cooking at home, take a moment to ask yourself why. If it is because you’ve never been taught how to cook, learn some basic cooking and meal preparation skills. (You would be surprised how many healthy meals you can make by just assembling pre-purchased ingredients from the store!).
If you don’t have a lot of time in your schedule for meal prep, there are time-savers out there. Consider using a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to batch cook meals that will feed you all week. Or every time you cook, double the recipe and freeze half of it for later. You can also buy mostly-prepared foods at the grocery store, such as pre-cut veggies, microwavable rice, and pre-seasoned fish or meat.
If you don’t like to cook, there are ways to make it more enjoyable. Take a cooking class with your partner or a friend. “Reward” yourself for cooking by listening to music, a favorite podcast, or a book on tape while you prepare your meals.
Also think about what you don’t like about cooking. Is it doing the dishes afterward? Is it because you’re uncomfortable in the kitchen? Or maybe you are frustrated because your food doesn’t turn out the way you expected or hoped? If you can figure out what is preventing you from enjoying your time in the kitchen, you will have an easier time overcoming that obstacle.
Enjoy your meals with friends or family, when possible
Americans seem to have a harder time than other cultures being present with and enjoying our food. Other countries seem to do a much better job of this, as my summer studying abroad in Italy taught me. In our rush to get through the day, we often forget that meals are about more than just getting food inside our bodies.
I think that’s why the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics includes enjoying meals with family and friends as one of its “Celebrate a World of Flavors” sub-recommendations. Communal meals remind us of the importance of slowing down and they give us an opportunity to connect with our loved ones. And, as a mom who cooks for her family almost every day, it is gratifying to watch my sons eating the food that I just spent all that time and effort cooking.
See a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
If you need more help with these tips, or if you just want individualized nutrition advice, then seek out the help of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). RDN’s are trained to provide evidence-based nutrition information to meet the needs of their clients.
You can ask your doctor for a referral, or check out the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics RD finder tool. Once you’ve entered your location, you can filter the results to locate a dietitian who specializes in the areas you need help with.
Closing thoughts on “Celebrate a World of Flavors”
One thing that I like about this year’s National Nutrition Month theme is that it supports one of the core messages of this blog: that all foods can fit into a balanced diet, and that good nutrition respects each person’s food preferences and individual needs. So this March, I encourage you to “Celebrate a World of Flavors” by either learning more about your own food culture or exploring a new one. Both will provide benefits that go beyond just providing nutrients for your body.
If you want to cook more at home but a disorganized kitchen keeps you ordering takeout, check out this post on smart kitchen setup.
- National Nutrition Month. Accessed March 15, 2022. https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition-month
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eat Right: Food, Nutrition and Health Tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Celebrate a World of Flavors. Chicago, IL, 2022.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Celebrate a World of Flavors: National Nutrition Month(R) 2022. PowerPoint. Accessed March 15, 2022. https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition-month/toolkit
- Celebrate a World of Flavors During National Nutrition Month® 2022 Press Release. Accessed March 15, 2022. https://www.eatrightpro.org/media/press-releases/national-nutrition-month/
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