By Rosanne Rust

National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign spearheaded annually in March by the American Dietetic Association. The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

This year’s theme encompasses the message of the American Dietetic Association: Eat right. Eating right and staying fit are important no matter what your age. Eating right not only helps with health and weight control but can also help you feel your best.

Get back to basics this month, try some easy steps to better eating:

I have said it before, and I’m going to keep saying it: Keep working on adding more fruit to your diet. Eat fruit for a mid-day snack, with your lunch, and as a snack before dinner.

Include a nice serving of vegetables daily. Try vegetable soup at lunch, add veggies to your sandwiches, and include a vegetable and/or salad with dinner.

Choose lean cuts of a variety of meats. Include fish weekly. Skip the skin on poultry. If you are a new vegetarian, include a good protein source with meals, such as beans, lentils, tofu, nuts or soy protein. Read labels for saturated fat and trans fat; limit these foods.

Even if you aren’t vegetarian, add beans to your diet! They are full of nutrients and fiber.

To lose a pound a week you have to create a calorie deficit of 500 daily. This means either you eat less, or burn more, or both. Many people make the mistake of exercising without working on the calorie deficit. You need to do both.

Choose a colorful diet. Eat foods that are orange, yellow, green and blue (as in blueberries).

Choose canned fruits and vegetables if you can’t always purchase or have fresh available. Canned produce still contains fiber and nutrients. Keep your eye on sodium if you are sodium-sensitive or have been told to follow a low sodium diet.

Get out of the white bread rut. It’s time to grow up and try whole grain breads. They are yummy and good for you!

Do not obsess about “good” or “bad” foods. Most foods can fit into most people’s diets.

Stay fit, or get fit. You will be so pleased with your accomplishments and how good you will feel if you begin an exercise program. Challenge yourself to improve, no matter what your fitness level. Find local support in your own neighborhood or at a local gym. Exercising with a friend will help you meet your goals. The goal is to engage in 30 minutes every day. You can break up your physical activity into 10-minute sessions. If you are currently inactive, start with a few minutes a day, and increase gradually. Seriously, you have 10 minutes. Do it.

If you are an older adult ...

You need more Vitamin D and calcium for bone health. Include three servings of Vitamin-D-fortified, non-fat or 1 percent milk or yogurt daily. You can also include some calcium-fortified juices, cereals, or ask your doctor about a supplement

You need more Vitamin B-12, too, which is found in cereals, lean meat, fish and seafood.

You need to include more fiber. It helps lower risk for heart disease, controls weight, and controls blood sugar levels in persons with diabetes. Find it in fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grain breads and cereals, and beans.

You need more fluids. Drink plenty of water when incorporating more fiber to avoid constipation.

You should include foods rich in potassium. All fruits and vegetables are good sources. Dried fruit is especially high in potassium as are potatoes, oranges and bananas.

Encouraging healthy eating in children

Parents can help kids eat right by making healthy eating part of the daily routine.

If you are working to make better choices, let your children know that you are doing so to stay healthier and it is a good idea for the whole family.

Balance is important. Eating from the food groups should be encouraged, but don’t deprive children of snacks or junk food.

Eat a meal together. Studies show that families who eat a meal together have healthier habits in the long run. Not only does nutrition improve but conversations at the table help open doors for better habits at school and in social lives.

The table is a great place to showcase new foods. The more often a child sees and smells a new food, the better the chances he or she will eventually try it. Be patient with your picky eater.

Plan healthy snacks and have them easily available. Children need to eat between meals and after school. Have fresh fruit, cut veggies, yogurt, cheese, whole wheat crackers, whole grain cereals (try Cheerios or Quaker Oat Squares) or granola bars available for them.

Set a good example for the children around you. New evidence shows that children are becoming too fixated on what to eat or not eat. Relax. Offer a variety of foods, including treats, and encourage children to take appropriate portions and quit eating when full.

Rust is a licensed, registered dietitian and nutrition coach who has a private practice in Meadville. She is a nutrition instructor for Penn State’s World Campus and a licensed provider for Real Living Nutrition Services. For more information about her online weight loss counseling and nutrition coaching service, visit her Web page at or contact her at

on the web

Check out It is loaded with hands-on activities that can help educate your child about a healthy diet.

coming Wednesday

In observance of National Registered Dietitian Day, several local dietitians offer their advice on how to quickly improve your personal health.

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