March has arrived, and that means we celebrate National Nutrition Month®, which is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses on the importance of making in-formed food choices and developing healthy, sustainable eating and physical activity habits.

Every year the academy creates a new theme to promote an overall healthy lifestyle.

This year the theme is: “Savor the flavor.”

What does this mean?

This means that we are encouraging everyone to embrace their favorite foods and recipes but also to be mindful of how we are preparing our foods and what types of ingredients we are adding to our dishes. Our beautiful, diverse country is known as a melting pot of cultures which enjoy a variety of ethnic dishes, but some of these recipes can be high in saturated fat and calories. There are many ways you can experiment with different cooking techniques and flavors to slightly alter your family dishes to be healthier.

Regardless of your traditions, follow these guidelines: make half your plate fruits and vegetables, with the rest of the plate, including protein, such as lean meat, poultry, seafood or beans and grains, preferably whole grains.

As nutrition experts, registered dietitians work with clients and patients to help guide them through an individualized approach and provide them with evidenced-based information to help them improve their health. Unfortunately, we live in a society that is obsessed with weight and images of the perfect body.

Therefore, it is not surprising that so many people buy into fad diets that promise quick, easy results which can lead to spending hard-earned money on weight loss products. Add the confusion and hype by self-proclaimed “nutrition experts,” and everyone is left confused and frustrated. I tell my clients that it is quite simple.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

There are red flags to look out for, such as pills and products that claim to: help you lose weight rapidly, which ultimately make you lose muscle, bone and water, or plans that tell you to eliminate specific food groups, such as carbohydrates and/or encourage unlimited amounts of specific foods. These plans can be harmful to your health and are not sustainable.

With any new diet, always ask yourself: “Can I eat this way for the rest of my life?” If the answer is no, the plan is not for you. It’s boring to eat the same thing over and over and hard to stick with repetitive plans. 

Keep in mind there are ingredients in some supplements and protein powders that can be dangerous or even deadly to some people. The “nutrition consultant” trying to push herbal supplements and protein powders on to you is most likely not a medical professional who has the knowledge or understands the potential interactions their products may have with medications you may be taking.

Always ask your healthcare provider before purchasing expensive dietary supplements about the potential for interactions with your health condition and/or medications. Life is short, and we need to enjoy it to its fullest, especially through the foods we nourish our bodies with.

Following rigid meal plans can be an overwhelming, exhausting task.

Instead of buying into the current diet trends and fads, enjoy your food, savor the flavor, focus on eating in a way that helps you feel nourished, satisfied and energized.

– Stacy Hammer is a registered dietitian, diabetes program director and Title VI director for the Lower Sioux Health Care Center