March is National Nutrition Month
Margo Kerrigan, M.P.H, Area Director
Indian Health Service California Area Office
March is National Nutrition Month®, with Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right the theme this year. This key message acknowledges food preferences, health concerns, lifestyles, cultures and traditions as factors in eating healthy. National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education campaign, which also recognizes the registered dietitian as an indispensable provider of food and nutrition services. As qualified professionals, registered dietitians provide factual food and nutrition information. Since 1973 this annual campaign has promoted the importance of making informed food choices, developing sound eating habits and being physically active. It supports the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative goal of raising a healthier generation of kids.
This year the key focus is on how to combine taste and nutrition to create healthy meals that follow the Dietary Guidelines recommendations. Public interest in nutrition, eating healthy and food safety continue to increase. Similarly the amount of misleading, false and confusing nutrition information is also increasing. Consumer research shows that taste tops nutrition when making food purchasing decisions. This all can make enjoying the taste of eating right seem like a big challenge. When wanting to understand how a healthy diet improves health and fights disease a registered dietitian can help.
While social, emotional and health factors play a role in the foods people are likely to eat most, it is the combination of sedentary lifestyles, poor dietary choices, excess portions and high stress that are blamed for the increases in obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, and certain cancers. These are all nutritionally influenced conditions that disproportionately affect American Indian and Alaska Native people. The devastating consequences these conditions increase the significance of enjoying the taste of eating right.
As a nation overall the amount of time spent on physical activity is poor. Increasing time spent being physically active is needed to help with weight loss and maintenance. The lack of priority placed on healthy eating to achieve and maintain healthy weight as a nation is even worse. This includes the kinds and total amounts of foods eaten. The benefits of addressing unhealthy weight gain are not limited to those who are genetically inclined to gain weight. Many adults who are now overweight were lean as young adults. A parent’s weight and health are predictors of their child’s weight and health. In order to raise a healthier generation of kids, making informed food choices, developing sound eating habits and being physically active is important for everyone.
Benefits of working with a registered dietitian:
- They are trained to provide highest level of nutrition counseling, having a bachelor's degree and dietetic internship at minimum.
- Provide advice that is tailored, based on factual nutrition information, the individual’s health needs and personal goals.
- Help manage chronic diseases, by reviewing lab results, and helping individuals understand their condition and eating plan.
- Provide counseling on living with food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances, by teaching food labels reading to avoid ingredients or find substitutions.
- Develop weight loss programs that really work, with safe, effective nutrition plans for the long haul versus another fad diet or quick fix.
Resources and References
(links reviewed, verified or edited, 5/2021)
- The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,
- U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, health.gov, Food & Nutrition
- U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, health.gov, Physical Activity
- World Health Organization, Physical Activity
- Let’s Move,
- The New England Journal of Medicine, Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Leadership for Healthy Communities, Action Strategies Toolkit
- IHS Health Promotion/Disease Prevention (HPDP) - Restoring Balance
- IHS Healthy Weight for Life,