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10 Ways to March to Nutrition!

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Yes, it's the month of March Madness, but I like to think about it as a month of sanity, too! That's because it's National Nutrition Month, and a great time to remind ourselves of the importance of eating well and making good food choices.

Here are some ideas to keep in mind as we move through the rest of this month -- and the rest of 2011:

1. Invite friends over for a healthy meal.
Don't want to do all the cooking? I don't blame you -- lots of times, I don't either! Potlucks are a great way to get together for a healthy meal. Either throw it out there and see what you get, or ask each guest to bring a part of a healthy meal: a soup, a whole grain, a bean or bean product like a tofu or tempeh dish, vegetables, salad and dessert. Extra people = more vegetables! Need some great recipe ideas? Sign up for my free newsletter, or, buy my book, "A Life In Balance: Delicious Plant-Based Recipes for Optimal Health"

2. Pack healthy meals and snacks for your lunch.
Make a healthy meal the evening before and use the leftovers for lunch the next day. Soups are easy and portable. Or, make a batch of Tempeh 'Tuna' Salad for a sandwich on good-quality bread (I look for whole grain bread with no added sugar or high fructose corn syrup). You might also try this tasty spread on a whole-wheat tortilla. Bring your leftover vegetables in a Tupperware container and increase your fiber intake. Nutritionists are recommending 30-40 grams/day.

3. Get involved with improving your school/college/preschool/work lunch program.
When my children were in high school, I donated a large brown-rice cooker to their school so that they could have a whole grain to go with vegan soups that the school already offered. A small change, it was much appreciated.

4. Give yourself a challenge: Try one new vegetable a week.
Make it an adventure! Go to the supermarket or farmer's market. Browse the vegetable section and see what calls to you. Steam, broil, bake, poach or eat it raw. Don't be surprised if you don't like the taste the first time. Our bodies often will reject a food we haven't eaten often - ever see a baby push the food back out the first few times you feed it to them? Well, adults and kids are the same. Once it becomes part of the cells of your body from eating small amounts, you're more likely to want to eat it. The key is to start with small amounts. A great vegetable to start with might be kale. Try my "Kale Challenge!"

5. Buy a good healthy cookbook.
(I recommend "A Life In Balance" by Meg Wolff!) I have my recipes divided into easy categories: Soups, Whole Grains, Bean & Bean Products, Vegetables, Salads, Snacks & Desserts! Yes, there are healthy delicious versions of desserts.

6. Cut down on sweets, or cut out sugar altogether.
Break the sugar habit! Some of you may already be trying this for Lent. Once it's out of your system, think about how good you feel after 40 days and ask if you really want to go back!

7. Have a corned beef and cabbage dinner for St. Patrick's Day -- hold the corned beef!
And keep the cabbage.

8. Eliminate soda and drink more water.
There are lots of good reasons to do this, but I think the recent study finding that fructose accelerates the growth of pancreatic cancer is a notable one. According to Anthony Heaney, M.D., Ph.D., "High fructose corn syrup accounts for more than 40 percent of the caloric sweeteners added to foods and beverages, and it is the sole sweetener used in American soft drinks." As my Dad always said, Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware!) ... the industry is trying to change the name of HFCS, to corn sugar.

9.  Start your vegetable garden.
Or start planning one if you live in the Northeast like I do. Start browsing through seed catalogs, and maybe sketch out what you'll plant where. Look into netting, fencing, etc. now so you can't make excuses when the weather warms up.

10. Most importantly, set a good example by being kind to you and eating healthy.
Check out the Health Starts Here program, from Whole Foods Market, which is doing excellent work to promote good health.

Would you consider trying/following one or more of these 10 suggestions? Please add your comments below.

For healthy recipes and other helpful information, please sign up for my free monthly newsletter on my website home page (right lower corner).