Put Your Best Fork Forward
A few nights ago, I walked through our living room. Hubby was sitting on the couch, reading a book, putting his hand in a large bag of mixed nuts, and mindlessly popping one nut into his mouth after another. This would not have been a big deal except we had literally finished dinner 15 minutes before. And it was a fine dinner if I do say so myself - pork chops with curried pear sauce over couscous with a healthy helping of broccoli on the side. Clearly, the man was not hungry. I don’t like to nag so instead, I stopped and asked in a very neutral tone (as neutral as a wife can be after 30 years), “Are you hungry?” He smiled sheepishly, put on his little boy face, and said, “No, I just like snacking when I am reading.” He then handed the bag to me and said, “Here take it away.” I am not throwing my dearest under the bus. I am guilty and my guess is so are you. We eat quickly and often mindlessly, especially in the evening hours while watching TV, reading a book, or relaxing.
I relay this story because March is National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has zoned in on the fork to remind us that we all have the tools to eat well and with the right intention. You don’t have to spend a fortune at the grocery store and disrupt your whole life to eat better on a daily basis. It is, however, helpful to slow down, look at the food you are eating, when you are eating it, and how you are eating it.
Jill Weisenberger, nationally known registered dietician and author, writes in her blog, “The eating fork signifies eating with intention and care. I want eating to be the event – not something we squeeze in between two other events. No tossing a meal down as quickly as possible and no eating in the car. Use that fork, which is nearly impossible to do if you’re eating while driving or otherwise racing to finish a meal.” She challenges folks to pick at least two meals or snacks to practice eating with intention; that is really pay attention to your food, chew it slowly, enjoy it at a table with friends or family, and afterwards give your tummy time to communicate with your brain. 15-20 minutes after the meal, determine your hunger level on a scale of 1 to 10 – 1 being famished and 10 being “Thanksgiving full.” Still really hungry, grab a piece of fruit after the meal. Not hungry, no need to snack.
The Academy also offers the following suggestions for wiser food choices and intentional mealtime.
Make half your plate fruits and veggies. 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables is a good daily goal.
Watch your portion sizes. Read the label. If a cereal box, says a serving size is ½ or ¾ cup, get out your measuring cups and see what that looks like. If you are mindlessly pouring cereal into a large bowl, you could be eating 3 or 4 servings worth and that triples or quadruples the calories.
Get cooking. Preparing foods at home can be healthy, fun, and cost-effective. Learn cooking basics. A great resource for a number of how to cook videos is www.eatright.org/howdoi
Enact family meal time. Plan to eat as a family at least a few times each week. Turn off the TV and other electronic devices to encourage mealtime talk. When we chat at breakfast, lunch, or dinner, we eat slower and eat less.
Eat new foods and flavors. When you go shopping, make a point of selecting a new fruit, vegetable, or whole grain. Keep it fun – involve the kiddos and enjoy broccoflower, quinoa, or purple asparagus!
Experiment with plant-based meals (vegetarian). Vegetables, beans, and lentils are budget friendly, good for you, and easy to prepare. In addition, we know that plant-based diets are important for preventing diabetes, cancer, and a host of other chronic diseases. Try including one meatless meal a week to start.
For more information on the “Put Your Best Fork Forward” campaign, log onto: www.eatright.org. The site is full of tools to help you eat right and stay healthy.
Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at UR Noyes Health in Dansville. If you have suggestions for future articles or questions, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 585-335-4327.