March is National Nutrition Month. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics created the annual campaign in 1973 (50 years ago), and it includes a new theme each year. This year’s theme is “Fuel for the Future.” But what exactly does that mean?
Food is the fuel that our bodies need to keep our system running. It’s what powers our brain, keeps our heart beating, activates our muscles and gives us energy. Filling up with the right mix of fuel is important now and for the future. An athlete who eats a hearty meal of whole grain carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats will have long-lasting energy to get through the day’s game. And when one eats the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy each day, they’re decreasing the risk of any future chronic disease, such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Ask your doctor for a referral to see a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). A RDN can help with your individual needs, which may include eating a variety of foods from all the food groups or learning how to plan and cook meals to eat healthier and save money.
We can also “fuel for the future” by eating with the environment in mind. Shop local, buy reusable or compostable packaging, grow your own herbs and vegetables in a backyard garden or container garden, and enjoy more plant-based meals and snacks. All of these healthy habits are sustainable ways to protect our planet and protect our health for years to come.
Tuscan Bean Salad with Tomatoes and Arugula
2 (14 oz.) cans unsalted cannellini beans
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 ripe medium tomatoes, diced
1 cup fresh arugula
½ cup red onion, chopped
¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ teaspoon lemon pepper, optional
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash hands with soap and water. Combine all ingredients and toss gently in a large bowl. Eat immediately or refrigerate for one hour before serving to let flavors blend.
Yield: 8 servings as a side salad or 4 servings as a main dish
Nutrition Facts (per serving): 180 calories, 10 grams fat, 40 milligrams sodium, 18 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 6 grams protein
Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. National Nutrition Month. Eatright.org
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond.