March is National Nutrition Month! The theme for 2016 is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” which focuses on enjoying food traditions, the pleasures that come from great flavors and the social experiences centered on food.
Food is a large part of all cultures and socially it connects people of all ages. Traditionally, families gathered at meal time to spend time sharing the stories of the day. Today, these gatherings are less often, but their importance has not changed. Every important social gathering includes food and every culture uses a blend of local foods, herbs and spices at special gatherings. Having a large garden to grow and process fresh produce is difficult for most individuals, but the benefits that come from growing some of your own food is priceless.
We see in countries, like Japan, children learning early how to grown, cook and prepare food. Their early experience with food encourages their connection with the food process and healthy food choices throughout their lives. In America, some children have access to freshly grown foods, but many still lag behind in understanding the garden to table food process. Seeing something grow, and then preparing it for dinner is a fun learning experience. Plus, adding the benefit of understanding how food impacts our health helps children understand — why food choices matter. Unmistakably, having a garden with veggies, herbs and spices, (traditional or a tower style), talking about healthy foods, and developing dishes that involve children early on, will encourage them to make better food choices for life.
Today, children and adults are dealing with illnesses caused and made worse by poor food choices. We see the statistics on childhood obesity which has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. The health effects for the young included those linked to cardiovascular disease; such as, high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Also, they are more likely to have prediabetes, bone and joint problems, and sleep apnea, among other health issues. Making smarter food choices, and selecting and preparing whole foods that are rich in nutrients today, provides the framework for wise food choices in the future.
Steps to help you and your family have a healthy heart, brain, and body, plus feel better all over; begin with the following choices:
- limit saturated and trans fats (i.e. beef, pork, hotdogs);
- limit carbs (white rice, potatoes, corn, sugar and sweets of all types);
- eat omega-3 fatty acids (i.e. fish, walnuts, lake trout, tuna, flaxseed and soybean oil);
- consume vitamin E rich foods, (i.e. seeds, nuts, whole grains, avocado, peanut butter);
- eat dark green leafy vegetables (kale, collard greens, spinach, broccoli);
- eat berries (i.e. blueberries, strawberries, acai berries);
- add herbs and spices (i.e. cinnamon, chili peppers, turmeric, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary);
- eat organic, non GMO foods when possible.
Today is the first day to make the changes that will impact your life and the life of those you love. In truth, it’s never too late to get involved in healthy food choices. Make growing, selecting and preparing food a family event that involves children, parents, grandparents and others. Create and cook healthy family recipes that are shared and passed down and continue sharing the message of what you eat and consume matters. Make learning about the health benefits of foods, spices and herbs a fun family activity and the knowledge will last a lifetime for generations to come.