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National Nutrition Month encourages Americans to eat healthier


March 27, 2014
SPRINGFIELD – Any parent knows that if you place something in front of a child that doesn’t taste good, then they won’t eat it.

“Adults aren’t any different. We all want our food to taste good. But, just because a hot fudge sundae topped with whipped cream and jimmies may taste fantastic, doesn’t mean it’s nutritious,” Paula Serafino-Cross, RD, a clinical dietitian in Food and Nutrition Services at Baystate Medical Center, said.

Each March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages Americans to return to the basics of healthful eating through National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme, “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right,” focuses on combining taste and nutrition to create healthy meals that follow the recommendation of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

How do Americans make their food selections? There have been numerous studies whose results eschew nutrition in favor of taste first, followed by cost.

“I’m always hearing from patients who ask, ‘Why does something that tastes so good, have to be bad for you?’ My answer to them is that healthful foods taste great, too. You just need to know how to prepare them in flavorful ways,” Serafino-Cross said.

The Baystate dietitian said learning to cook with spices, herbs, and citrus juices such as lemon, lime and orange can bring out the natural flavor in foods. She noted those who enjoy spicy food can try using a variety of hot peppers to give their food an extra “punch” and a flavorful taste. Trying ethnic foods with different spices is another strategy.

“My family loves Indian food and I have a very easy recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala that calls for one special spice called Garam Masala, which makes it authentic. This dish takes about 30 minutes to prepare and has a fantastic flavor,” Serafino-Cross said.

She noted the trend now is home cooking with First Lady Michelle Obama encouraging families to prepare family meals more often.

“When you cook at home, you are not only eating healthier, you are teaching your children how to cook,” Serafino-Cross said.

As dietitians, Serafino-Cross said it is their goal, especially during National Nutrition Month, to help promote nutritious food choices that are both tasty and inexpensive. Nutrition-rich foods and beverages provide vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and other essential nutrients that offer health benefits with relatively few calories. Dried beans and frozen vegetables and fruits are more economical and a great way to eat more nutritiously.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the following tips when searching for just the right healthy foods to tantalize your taste buds:

At the grocery store: When shopping, make it a point to try one new fruit, vegetable or whole grain every week.

Eating at restaurants: The next time your family heads out to a restaurant, consider one offering ethnic foods from Asia, Europe or Africa. These restaurants often feature menus filled with healthy options that will be new to you. And, don’t forget those local restaurants that specialize in using seasonal ingredients.

Cooking at home: Add variety to your staple dishes by varying the ways you cook them. Grill or broil the chicken you typically bake. Mash the potatoes you typically roast. Steam the vegetables you typically sauté. And get to know your spice cabinet.

“Remember to eat mindfully, savoring your food, eating slowly, turning off the television and phone. And, keep in mind that balance is the key. No one is saying you can’t eat an ice cream sundae once in a while. It’s all about moderation,” Serafino-Cross said.

For more information about Baystate Medical Center, visit http://baystatehealth.com.



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