Nutrition-wise blog

Nutrition month: Healthy eating from the ground up

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. March 25, 2010

Hardly a day, a week or a month goes by without some sort of local or national health campaign. March is National Nutrition Month. Created and sponsored by the American Dietetic Association, it's been an annual event since 1980. I've been in practice for as long and I've seen themes come and go. This one is an absolute winner!

The theme for 2010 is "Nutrition From the Ground Up." Going green — in all its meanings — is really important. Think of all the good things that we get from the ground:

  • Whole grains (wheat, barley, oats, rice, maize, quinoa, and millet) have sustained civilizations throughout history.
  • Vegetables of every size, color, shape, texture, and flavor. Each has a unique nutrient fingerprint. Do they add variety to our diets — you bet! Soups, salads or sides — sauteed, sliced or slapped on sandwiches.
  • Fruit has been described as the ovary or womb of plants. Gross? No, lovely. That fleshy pulp surrounding the seed provides the seed — and us — with life-sustaining vitamins, minerals and phyto-compounds that are crucial for health. There's something to the saying about an apple a day.
  • Legumes, beans, nuts and seeds are the plant version of protein foods. They grow on bushes or vines or even underground (peanuts). Sold dried or fresh, they can be cooked into a main meal or side dish.

What's the point? Research shows that plant foods are low in calories and sustain us in many important ways. Fresh or lightly processed they are also "earth friendly."

Throughout history humans have sought ways to fulfill our basic need for food. One could argue that worldwide agribusiness is mankind's ultimate accomplishment. However what will be our culinary legacy? What will our food supply look like in 10 years? In 50 years? I hope it will be predominantly "green" and not man-made "wonder" bread, chips, catsup and fruity flavored drinks.

Do we need a National Nutrition Month to help us be aware of what we should eat? Maybe so. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a list of monthly health observances — and many of them focus on nutrition. Take advantage of them.

What are your thoughts?

- Jennifer

Mar. 25, 2010