By Hallie Kaplan, University of Texas Southwestern Dietetic Intern
March is National Nutrition Month, an annual nutrition education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This year's theme is "Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle" which encourages everyone to adopt healthier habits like physical activity and eating plans that focus on "consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices, and getting daily exercise in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health."
When I heard this theme it took me a while to find out what "bite into a healthy lifestyle" meant to me. I think the beauty of this theme is that it can have different meanings for different people, and no matter where we are on our health-seeking journey, we can all benefit from trying to take new little steps (or in this case "bites") towards a healthier lifestyle. March is a great time to focus in on what healthy habits we'd like to adopt or improve. Many people might feel like they've fallen off the tracks for their New Year's resolution and don't know where or how to get back on. That's where these little "bites" come in: challenge yourself to try one new things a week, or maybe even one a month, in order to stay motivated to follow through with nutritional and physical activity goals.
Bite #1: Try a new exercise routine
The year after I graduated college, I moved to New York City to do a year of service as an AmeriCorps member. I remember along with the anxiety of moving to a new city, I was worried about how I could possibly afford to join a gym or keep up with my current exercise routine. Right before I moved, I purchased 12 Groupons for different gyms, yoga and Pilates studios, and even some salsa dancing lessons. I had one for every month I lived there, and I was able to have all of these different experiences for a discounted price! Not only was I able to be active while I lived in NYC, but I was able to come back home with the knowledge and passion I've developed for all of these different fitness routines and continue trying all the new ones Dallas had to offer without the fear or hesitation I had before this experience.
Bite #2: Try one new food every week
Another way to consider how to "bite" into a healthy lifestyle is to revamp your plate by trying to add one new or unfamiliar ingredient each week. Often times when we make healthy eating resolutions, we think we need to completely overhaul our diet and start eating all new foods. As a former picky eater, I made a goal to start eating a greater variety of fruits and vegetables and to try at least one new food a week. Thanks to Google and some of my very patient chef friends, I was able to find ways to prepare new foods in a way that was easy, familiar, and delicious. I even developed my love for cooking by just discovering new ways to integrate these foods into my current meals. Often times it helped when I would go to a restaurant and try something different on the menu. If I liked it, I would try to write down all the ingredients and how I thought it was prepared and go home and make it myself. This is how I discovered my new favorite winter soup: Celery Root Soup with Toasted Apples (see recipe below.) This makes a great substitution to a thick and creamy baked potato soup.
Bite #3: Making adventurous eating a family affair
Many parents have commiserated over the dreaded "picky eater" dilemma and the endless frustrations of getting children to eat what is prepared at mealtime. While there is no simple solution to this problem, working together as a family to try new things can help make mealtime more positive and can be a fun activity for everyone. Try bringing National Nutrition Month into the home and have a collective goal to "bite into a healthy lifestyle." Take the kids to the grocery store or farmer's market and let them help pick out fruits and vegetables they're not used to eating. For snack time, when kids are hungry, you can make family taste test plates with different fruits and vegetables and dipping sauces. Each family member can have a chart on the refrigerator that says "I tried:_____" and see who can get the most every day. This is a great way to start introducing new foods and get children, and even some adults, less anxious about the idea of eating different foods.
Bite #4: Start cooking!
This week, start by trying out a new recipe (or even adapt an old one) with a new ingredient you choose. If you’re looking for places to start, try this celeriac (celery root) soup recipe I love from one of my favorite blogs, Coffee and Quinoa. If you’re newer to cooking like me, Pinterest and food blogs are a great way to search for new recipes the whole family will enjoy. I particularly love this one because it looks and tastes like a creamy soup, but is only a fraction of the calories and has a light, crisp taste to it. You can eat it as an appetizer before your meal or try it as an entrée with a side of quinoa and bean salad to make sure you have some protein! Once you get used to cooking new recipes, take the liberty to make them your own and just have fun with it. Soups are a great way to use extra ingredients in the fridge or pantry and you can freeze leftovers for quick meals on the go during the week.
Celery Root Soup Recipe
Adapted from Coffee and Quinoa
2 Tbsp butter or margarine
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 leeks, cleaned and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt to taste
4 lbs celery root (I used 1 large plus 1 small)
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups water (reduce to 1 cup for a thicker soup)
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp chile powder
2 gala apples, peeled and chopped (optional)
- Peel and chop the celery root
- Melt the butter and olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once hot, add leeks and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not let the leeks brown at all; turn down the heat if they start to. Add the garlic cloves and a pinch of salt and continuing sautéing until both the leeks and garlic are soft and translucent, another few minutes.
- Add the celery root, vegetable stock, and water. Cover, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a “strong simmer.” Simmer until the celery root is tender- about 25 minutes. (A fork should slide easily to the center of a cube when pierced.)
- Once celery root is tender, add the pepper and chili powder. Puree using an immersion blender (or in batches in a regular blender) until the soup is smooth with no remaining chunks. Add more salt as desired.
- If you wish to add toasted apples, I like to sauté peeled and chopped gala apples (in just a little EVOO or cooking spray) and place on top of soup as croutons.
Brainstorm with your family or friends and see how YOU would like to celebrate National Nutrition Month by biting into a healthy lifestyle. This month and every month, here at Lemond Nutrition we are challenging all families to do something new to promote healthy living in your home. What will it be? We would love to hear from you!
Hallie is ecstatic to be back in her hometown, Dallas, to get her Masters in Clinical Nutrition at UT Southwestern and complete her dietetic internship in order to become an RDN! Hallie double majored in Medicine, Health, and Society, and Communications at Vanderbilt University and discovered her passion for nutrition during her AmeriCorps service at a WIC clinic in New York City. Before attending graduate school, Hallie worked as a Marketing Manager at a popular Dallas restaurant and as the Nutrition Education Coordinator at North Texas Food Bank where she was able to teach healthy cooking classes to kids and adults all over the DFW area.
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