Healthy food tips from the pros for National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month although obviously every month should be nutrition month. You can’t just have nutrition one month a year and expect to enjoy good health. In recognition of NNM, I asked some of the Radio Nutrition interns and colleagues the following question:

What is your favorite go-to healthy food?  Something you eat several times a week, perhaps every day.  What do you like about it — taste, convenience, health aspects, etc.   What makes it healthy, in your opinion?

It’s good to have a reality check from nutrition professionals about what we actually eat. Here are some of the answers:

from my colleagues:

Kathy Isacks MPS, RDN, CDE recommends:

  • Snacks: nuts of any type, fresh fruit, nonfat Greek style yogurt, 2% cottage cheese
  • Healthier desserts: quality dark chocolate, honey roasted peanuts, low sugar/nonfat vanilla ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon and berries
  • Breakfast: whole wheat sour dough toast drizzled with EVOO, cottage cheese and sautéed spinach.

Martha Henze RDN says her favorite portable snack is sliced apples and packaged cheese packs such as Tillamook Portions or string cheese. She likes the complementary flavors of sweet + salty. And of course you’re combining a high protein food with a high fiber food.

Here are some thoughts from this year’s interns:

Rebecca Barksdale: My favorite healthy food: beans, all kinds. What do I like about it: Fiber! Most American’s don’t consume enough fiber (the recommendation is 25 – 30 grams of fiber per day). Multiple research studies show that when fiber is consumed in adequate amounts (or greater), it has many health benefits. Beans contain soluble fiber which can help lower LDL cholesterol.

Katelynn Hackl: My go-to breakfast is ‘muffin tin egg bake’! I cook up broccoli and ground turkey on the stove top, whisk some eggs in a bowl, then place the eggs and fillings into a muffin tin to bake! In the morning I microwave a serving of the egg bake with a little cheese, toast a whole wheat english muffin, and sprinkle on a little hot sauce to make a delicious, protein-packed breakfast sandwich! These are perfect for anyone with budget or time constraints that are preventing them from eating a wholesome breakfast on busy mornings.

Emma Sickles: Even though my taste preferences have matured from cheese sticks to brie and from Go-GURT to Greek yogurt, my love for peanut butter has remained unwavering. I ditched the jelly and the white bread, but I still eat peanut butter almost every day.

Two tablespoons of peanut butter contains about 8 grams of protein and 8 grams of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. This creamy (or crunchy!) snack also contains magnesium, iron, and vitamin B6. The nutty flavor pairs perfectly with produce such as apples, sweet potatoes, bananas, or celery. Peanut butter is also delicious when spread onto whole grain breads, crackers, or tortillas, drizzled over smoothies or yogurt, or mixed into baked goods.

It’s also incredibly convenient. You can squeeze it out of little packets, dip into cute pre-packaged cups, or just spoon it out of the jar (like I do). Of course, peanut butter is not for those with peanut allergies. It is also fairly high in calories. One serving (2 tbsp) of peanut butter is about 190 calories, so it is a good idea to be cognizant of portion sizes.

Kirsten Lackey: My favorite go-to healthy food is leafy greens! Spinach, kale, romaine, bok choy, napa cabbage… the options are endless.

The health benefits of eating leafy greens are incredible. From being low calorie and filling, to being chock full of phytonutrients and vitamins, a diet high in leafy greens can lower the risk of diet-related disease and keep your body functioning optimally for longer. Plus, they are so versatile, easy to use, and easy to grow yourself! Cooking something with an Asian twist? Add bok choy or napa cabbage! Making yourself an egg-based breakfast? Throw in some spinach! Looking for a side dish to complement your meal? Make a simple salad! I like to challenge myself to add greens to 5 meals each week, with a special focus on breakfast, since it takes creativity to incorporate veggies into the first meal of the day.

Megan Henning: My favorite go-to healthy food is peanut butter.  Whether is on toast in the morning, with celery or apples as a snack or just a small spoonful for dessert, I love peanut butter (especially the extra crunchy type) and eat it almost every day.  

Being a dietetic intern in the midst of my rotations, I am never sure what time of the day my lunch will be, therefore one of the things I like most about peanut butter is that it’s high protein and fat content helps keep me fuller longer.  In addition, I also like that it is super easy to grab-and-go and that there are a variety of ways to enjoy it.  Plus the little bit of sweetness helps satisfy my sweet tooth.  

One thing I like to remind people when talking to them about peanut butter as a healthy food though is that a little bit goes a long way and a serving size is typically just two tablespoons, so use sparingly. For people with peanut allergies there are a variety of different nut butters out there, including SunButter which is free of the top eight allergens, allowing them to enjoy the delicious benefits of peanut butter without the risk.  

What do I think?

First, I like Kirsten’s ideas about greens, especially trying to incorporate them in at least 5 meals/week, and trying to come up with ways to include greens at breakfasts. In fact, that sounds like a great blog post topic!

I also like all the attention to peanut butter (or nut butters in general). I’m a fan of peanut butter and have to be careful not to just spoon out half the jar for a snack. I highly recommend natural peanut butter, the kind you have to mix up because the oil rises to the top. No sweeteners or emulsifiers or added saturated fats like (ugh!) palm oil.

My healthy go-to food has to be yogurt. High protein, probiotic, loaded with calcium and delicious. My preference is whole milk yogurt, and I like to mix plain and sweetened (vanilla) half-and-half to cut the sugar.

I can’t find a particular theme for National Nutrition Month this year other than “Celebrate”. So celebrate nutrition by eating healthy food. Not just this month, all year long.

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