By Amanda Hill

March is National Nutrition Month, an annual healthy eating campaign by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). This month, registered dietitians are encouraging Americans to “get your plate in shape” by working on your food fitness.

The thing about working out is…it’s hard. It often takes a lot of sweat (and time) to see results. Food fitness, though, is pretty easy. A few simple swaps to your grocery list can have a long-term impact on your family’s healthy eating habits. Here are some suggestions from the Academy for ways to improve your “food fitness”:

  • Choose whole grains. At least half of the grains you eat should come from whole grains. Brown rice, oats and 100 percent whole grain bread, crackers and cereals are great sources and can make tasty side dishes to a main meal.
  • Make half of your plate fruits and veggies. The more color on your plate, the better! Fill it up with dark green, red and orange varieties. Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as good as the fresh varieties and are a good source when not in season.
  • Switch to skim (fat-free) or low-fat milk. This is an easy one. Fat-free and low-fat milk provide the same amount of calcium and other nutrients as whole milk, only with fewer calories and less fat.
  • Eat a variety of protein sources. Mix it up with lean beef, poultry, beans, fish and nuts. One three-ounce serving of lean meat is packed full of protein.
  • Avoid empty calories. Pack a nutrition punch with your food and beverage choices. Sugary drinks, sweetened teas and gourmet lattes are fine on occasion, but water, milk or 100 percent juice will provide much-needed vitamins, nutrients and hydration. Get the most out of snacks by adding protein and/or fruits and vegetables to give you more energy for the day.
  • Experiment with new flavors. Instead of reaching for the salt, try cooking with fresh herbs and spices. Full of flavor and antioxidants,  you might just find a new favorite go-to for cooking.

 Healthy eating is all about choices, and each family is different. At our house, we’ve tried these tips and found several new foods that are now in the regular meal rotation. And, we’re expecting our healthy food choices now will keep us going for many, many more years to come.

Has your family tried any of these “food fitness” tips? What swaps have you made to encourage healthy eating in your home?