National Nutrition Month: Learn skills to create tasty meals!

March is National Nutrition Month®, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics wants to help give everyone the tools to make informed food choices and develop healthful eating and physical activity habits for life. This year’s theme is to Personalize Your Plate, and this week’s message is to learn skills to create tasty meals!

Here are 5 tips to learn how to create tasty meals!

1.  Keep healthful ingredients on hand. Life happens, and sometimes, you aren’t able to run to the store but still need to whip up a quick and balanced meal. A well-stocked kitchen will ensure you’re able to do this.

  • Shelf-stable products – dried or canned beans, peas, and lentils; low sodium or no sodium added canned vegetables; whole grains, like brown rice, quinoa, and oats; canned fish and chicken; vegetable oils; dried herbs and spices
  • Frozen foods – frozen vegetables; frozen fruit; frozen skinless poultry, fish, seafood, lean pork, and lean beef.

2.  Practice proper home food safety. Practicing food safety at all times will help slow the growth of some bacteria that can make you sick.

  • Wash – before touching any foods, after touching raw poultry/meat/seafood/eggs, after throwing something away, after using chemicals, and before eating, thoroughly wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Refrigerate – make sure raw and cooked meats, milk, cheese, yogurt, and eggs are refrigerated within two hours of being taken out of the refrigerator.
  • Separate – keep raw poultry, seafood, meats, and eggs away from prepared and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Cook – make sure all poultry, seafood, meats, and eggs are cooked to their safe internal temperature.

3.  Share meals together as a family when possible. Research shows that families tend to eat healthier, try more foods, and consume more appropriate portion sizes when eating together.

  • Make it a habit – choose one meal that works for the entire family, and choose to consistently eat together.
  • Pay attention to each other – turn off the TV, phones, and video games. Take time to talk to and appreciate the people around you.
  • Get everyone involved – have your kids help you pick out healthy recipes, prepare meals, and cook. Use this time to teach them about healthful eating habits.

4.  Reduce food waste. Americans throw away billions of pounds of food each year, but you can easily reduce your impact.

  • Plan meals based on foods you already have – what foods do you already have that can be incorporated into meals? When buying perishable foods, buy only what you need and will be able to use before they go bad.
  • Utilize leftovers – safely store and eat leftovers for a healthy, easy to prepare meal. Get creative with your leftovers and make a new soup, salad, or sandwich with it.
  • Know the shelf life of foods – “Use by,” “Best by,” and “Best Before” dates are often found on condiments and shelf-stable foods. These foods are usually safe to consume long after that date if they have been stored per package instructions. “Sell by” dates are often found on perishable food items. These foods are usually safe to consume a few days after that date as long as they have been stored at a safe temperature.
  • Keep food safe – Store foods at safe temperatures and per package instructions. Eat leftovers within 4 days, or freeze them for up to 4 months. If a food doesn’t smell or taste right, don’t risk your health by eating it.

5.  Try new flavors and foods. Make meals more fun and nutritious by expanding your range of food choices.

  • It starts in the store – when shopping, make a point of selecting a fruit, vegetable, or whole grain that’s new to you.
  • Keep it comfortable – don’t put pressure on yourself when eating. Try new foods by yourself or with a non-judgmental friend.
  • Start small – serve one new food along with familiar favorites you know you love.
  • Keep trying – research shows that the more times we try a food, the more we may like it. Just because you don’t like it this time doesn’t mean you won’t like it ever. Try preparing it in a different way or topping it with a sauce.

Check back next week for more National Nutrition Month information! You can also follow us on Facebook and find healthy recipes here.