Personalize Your Eating Style for Nutrition Month

AMES, Iowa — Americans are being encouraged to personalize their eating style during National Nutrition Month. This campaign from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics focuses on making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. March 2013 is the 40th anniversary of National Nutrition Month, said Sarah Francis, an Iowa State University assistant professor and ISU Extension and Outreach nutrition specialist.

“This year’s theme, ‘Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day,’ encourages people to incorporate individual food choices and preferences into their own healthy eating plan. It also promotes personal eating plans tailored toward individual lifestyles, traditions, cultures, tastes and health needs,” Francis said.

“Personalizing your eating style allows you to account for your own unique tastes,” said Lindsay MacNab, a diet and exercise research assistant who works with Francis. “Eat healthy foods that you enjoy and that please your taste buds. If you really don’t like certain foods, try to find other foods that have the same nutrients and provide similar health benefits. For example, if you don’t like to eat broccoli, try eating a combination of different foods such as mushrooms on top of a spinach salad in order to obtain the vitamin D and vitamin K found in broccoli. Vitamin D is important for bone health and vitamin K is needed for healthy blood clotting and retaining bone calcium.”

Anyone can eat for his or her own lifestyle, whether a vegan, vegetarian, athlete, on-the-go businessperson, multi-tasking parent, student or average American, MacNab said. Although many Americans claim that they simply don’t have time to eat right, they can make healthy eating a priority by creating a meal plan in advance and fitting nutritious foods into daily eating.

Francis suggests creating easy, nutritious snack packs such as carrots, celery and multi-colored peppers paired with hummus, whole wheat crackers with low-fat cheese or Greek yogurt with fresh fruit or low-fat granola as toppings. Gather ingredients for the meals ahead of time or prepare foods that can be frozen and eaten later in the week.

“Cuisines from around the world contain many unique spices and nutritious ingredients. Mix up your meal routine by finding a new international recipe that appeals to your tastes. Keep family food traditions alive and strive to bring other ethnic foods to the dinner table,” Francis said.

For motivation, keep in mind health concerns associated with unhealthy eating such as high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and hypertension, MacNab continued.

“You don’t have to quit eating your favorite foods, simply eat them in moderation. Almost all recipes can be modified to a healthier version of its original counterpart without negatively affecting the taste. For example, try using applesauce instead of vegetable or canola oil to cut back on calories and fat while adding vitamin C. You also can substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream or blended low-fat cottage cheese in place of cream cheese,” MacNab said.

“In addition, make MyPlate, your plate! Make at least half of your grains whole grains, include low-fat or fat-free dairy items, consume around 3 ounces of protein from sources such as lean cuts of meat, fish, seafood and poultry, and fill half of your plate with a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables,” MacNab said.

Live Healthy Iowa

Live Healthy Iowa

The Live Healthy Iowa 10 Week Challenge continues. This team-based weight loss and physical activity program helps Iowans make positive changes that lead to a healthier lifestyle. To learn more, visit Live Healthy Iowa is a partnership of the Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Sports Foundation and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

For more information on nutrition and health or to receive a weekly email from ISU Extension and Outreach including a food, recipe and activity of the week, visit