National Nutrition Month 2016

By Melissa Rowe, Dietetic Intern

It’s March and spring time is in the air but that’s not the only exciting thing about this month. March is National Nutrition Month®! Every year since 1973, we have celebrated National Nutrition Month® as a way to promote the nutrition profession, educate individuals on the importance of making informed nutrition choices, and help develop healthy diet and exercise habits.

The theme for 2016 is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.” The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics wants to “encourage everyone to take time to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the pleasures, great flavors and social experiences food can add to our lives.” While it is important to “focus on the numbers” when managing diabetes, it is also important that you remember to enjoy the food you are eating. Eating should not be considered a task but rather a pleasant activity.

We often forget how important the food we put into our bodies is because we are busy, but how and why we eat is just as important as the food itself. Developing a practice of mindful eating will help you slow down and notice the flavors and textures of your meals. Exploring how, when, where and why you eat can affect blood sugars as well.

I challenge you to commit in March to start making small changes in your diet. Small changes are far more achievable and realistic than drastic changes. These changes don’t have to be something you do every day, but working a few into your day a couple times will help you start to form a habit of choosing healthier options. For people with diabetes, these changes will help with blood sugar and weight control. Start small to make long term changes!

A few ideas to get you started:

Healthy Swaps


Post content reviewed by the MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services
Heart Health, Nutrition

Hold the Salt

Salt and Pepper Shakers

Last week the USDA released the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2010.  In addition to limiting trans fats and eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, the new guidelines recommend people over 51 and those who have Diabetes or hypertension consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day (that’s about a half a teaspoon).  Sodium—or salt— is a necessary nutrient for living; it balances water and electrolytes in cells, and helps nerves send messages to our muscles.  Most Americans consume much, much more than the recommended daily amount, and although we need some sodium in our diets to keep our bodies functioning, too much sodium can actually be harmful. 

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a medical condition where blood passes through blood vessels with too much force, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood through the body.  Uncontrolled blood pressure can damage blood vessels which in turn can lead to serious heart complications such as heart attack and stroke.  So where does sodium fit in to this? Sodium attracts water; eating too much sodium can cause the body to hold on to water.  The extra fluid in the body puts pressure on blood vessels which in turn raises blood pressure.  

Some foods are natural sources of sodium, for instance dairy, meat and bread (salt works with yeast to make bread rise) and of course salt is added to many foods during the cooking process and at the table right before eating.  The greatest source of sodium in our diets, however, comes from packaged and processed foods where salt is used to preserve shelf-life and add flavor.  To get an idea of the sodium in food, check out this page which lists sodium content in many popular grocery store and restaurant items.    

When in doubt, check the Nutrition Facts on the back of the package; it’ll say how much sodium is in each serving.  Even foods whose packaging saying it’s “healthy” (like some brands of frozen dinners and canned soups) contain large amounts of sodium.  Whenever possible, opt for fresh foods over deli meat and packaged meals.  Try using dried spices and herbs for a low-sodium way to add flavor to a meal. 

What do you think about the new recommendations?  Do you think cutting back on the sodium in your diet will be difficult?

(Information reviewed by MGH Cardiologist and  Nutrition Department)