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NUTRITION: Take on a new health challenge

Cooking with children can be one way to create a fun environment for new health habits. Getty Images

National Nutrition Month is an annual nutrition education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The academy is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, including registered dietitians like myself. This March, I challenge you to celebrate National Nutrition Month. What can you do to improve your nutrition and your family's nutrition? Maybe even branch out beyond your household and recruit friends and coworkers to participate.

Get your family involved. Poll the kids and allow them to select the week's fruits and vegetables. Everyone should aim for at least 2 fruit servings and 3 vegetables servings per day. Head to the library and assign everyone the task of reading a new cookbook and selecting a recipe they'd like to try.

Once everyone in the household has had their say, commit to weekly meal and snack planning. Weekly meal and snack planning is a huge time saver and helps those busy weekday dinners go more smoothly. Meal planning makes you committed to eating a healthy meal. If you already purchased the food, don't let it go to waste; go home and cook what you had planned instead of stopping for fast food. Make the planning fun by trying new recipes, pick a weekly theme, or commit to trying something new. Another way to get the kids involved is to have them assist in making a kitchen herb garden or starting seeds to plant outside later this spring.

At the office, if you have a wellness coordinator or human resources director, reach out to them to see if there are any special nutrition-related events or challenges. If not, create one on your own. Here at St. Luke's, our wellness coordinator often plans events. My favorite nutrition-related challenges have been to record your fruit and vegetable intake. This past February for Heart Month, we were given a bingo board with squares challenging us to pack a healthy lunch, reduce caffeine intake, have a soda-free day, reduce alcohol intake and try a new healthy recipe.

Select a theme and have your coworkers share their favorite healthy recipes based on that theme; maybe it is their favorite vegetable recipe or maybe even more specific, their favorite carrot recipe. You could celebrate a specific culture, for example, to try a new Japanese recipe. Or focus on reducing sodium or saturated fats. Maybe even host a potluck to share healthy recipes.

Select a challenge that is both challenging but realistic. Make it fun. Get others involved. Share your challenge ideas with others. Inspire others to join in your challenge, and help hold each other accountable.

Brenda Schwerdt, RDN, LD, CNSC, is a clinical dietitian at St. Luke’s hospital. Contact her at dietitian@slhduluth.com.

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