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If you are like many people struggling to keep the New Year's weight loss resolutions alive, March is a great month to help get back on track. The academy of nutrition and dietetics has designated March as National Nutrition Month. This year's theme is "Enjoy the taste of eating right." March will remind Americans that everyone has different food preferences, so let's find a way to make them nutritious without depriving ourselves.

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People need to cast aside the idea in their head that there are two categories of food; good food and bad food. When we start putting foods into these categories, we become so restrictive that we crave "bad" foods and our weight loss goals become unachievable.

This March it's time to find a way to make "bad" foods on your list healthier, while making the "good" foods on your list taste a little better. Taste will always trump nutrition, however, this gives all foods in either category a level playing field in the game of food choices. Let's take for example a basic favorite food category like desserts, and everyone's least favorite food category, vegetables to see how one can enjoy the taste of eating right.

Ways to make desserts healthier:

It's hard to keep up with a healthy routine when your sweet tooth strikes at 7 pm. There is nothing wrong with craving a brownie or cookie now and then but something has got to give! If we get a little creative in the kitchen, desserts don't have to spoil all the hard work we put in that day.

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  1. Fruits can be a delicious dessert: Haven't had any fruit today and its already past dinner? Fruits are naturally sweet and might curb your craving. Try putting your favorite artificial sweetener on to strawberries, or add raspberries to your vanilla ice cream.

  2. Recipe substitutes can go a long way: Instead of eggs, egg whites are a great way to reduce the amount of cholesterol in baked goods. Substituting half of your sugar with an artificial sweetener will reduce the sugar content and still give it the sweet flavor. You can try substituting half of the flour in your recipe with whole grain flour. Finding a substitute that works for your baking might take some experimentation, but you don't need to incorporate all healthier options, just find one that makes your treats still taste delicious.
  3. Try dark chocolate: Yes dark chocolate is actually good for you! Dark chocolate has several chemical compounds and antioxidants that can affect your mood and cognitive health. Studies show that eating a small amount of dark chocolate two or three times each week can help lower your blood pressure.
  4. Add walnuts into your cookies: Walnuts are a great way to get Omega-3 essential fatty acids especially if you don't enjoy fish oil or seafood. Omegas 3's have been linked to the reduction of cardiovascular disease.
  5. Add Chocolate in your milk: Who says we can't be a kid again? If you are craving chocolate, adding a little in your milk is a great way to get your craving under control while getting vitamin D and calcium in for the day.

Ways to make vegetables taste better:

From children to adults, we tend to turn up our noses at the sight and smell of vegetables. Let's face it, they have a bad reputation and don't taste as good as their other "vegetable" friend, the french fry. Perhaps people aren't thinking outside the box when it comes to our green enemies. The way you prepare this essential food group will make all the difference in your vegetable intake.

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  1. Spice them up!: Try adding herbs in place of salt. Garlic, basil, rosemary, chives, or parsley; the options are endless. Herbs will bring your vegetables to life!
  2. Cheese: Just a touch of parmesan cheese or melted cheese might do the trick. Be careful to not overdo the cheese and veggie combo, those cheese calories could add up.
  3. Dip your raw vegetables: Raw vegetables are a little difficult to eat alone. Choosing a light or low fat dip might be the best way to snack or eat them for an appetizer. Again, make sure your vegetable is not drowning in a sea of ranch. Just enough will do the trick.
  4. Hide the vegetables: This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. If you can't see them, then they aren't there. Try adding Kale into your smoothies or veggies into your baked goods! If you don't like the taste of many vegetables, soup or casseroles may be your best solution where your bites will be of many flavors and not just of vegetables.
  5. Olive Oil: Just a spoon full of olive oil will help the vegetables go down! A couple of tablespoons of olive oil helps the herbs stick to the vegetables and is a healthier alternative to butter. My favorite way to eat baked asparagus is with olive oil, garlic powder, and a touch of parmesan cheese.

It's time to rip up your good and bad foods list to find small, simple, realistic ways to have your cake and eat it too. As part of the National Nutrition month campaign, the Academy's website includes a variety of promotional tools, recipes, tips, games, and helpful resources designed to send the message of healthy nutrition. Learn more about how you can enjoy the taste of eating right by visiting www.eatright.org.

Today's post was written by Natalie Rodakowski. Natalie Rodakowski, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator covering Carroll, Lee, Whiteside counties. She specializes in eating disorders, weight management, sports nutrition, and dietary behavior change.