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National Nutrition Month: Good Nutrition Starts at Home

Friday, March 31, 2023

If you’ve ever been “hangry,” you know that what we eat, or don’t eat, can affect our mood.

The connection between nutrition and mental health cannot be disputed, and good nutrition is an important part of maintaining good mental health.

Obesity and mental health disorders also are closely linked. A diagnosis of obesity or overweight during childhood or adolescence can result in increased risk of developing a depressive or anxiety disorder, or an eating disorder. A correlation also exists between ADHD accompanied by disobedience, defiance, aggression, cruelty and destruction of property, and disproportionate weight gain during early adolescence or adulthood.

March 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of National Nutrition Month, created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

This observance ties in well with one of the department’s top three goals, which is to reduce childhood obesity. As part of this effort, to date, we have credentialed more than 1,000 new wellness coaches to help address childhood obesity.

Like any good habit, the foundation for healthy eating begins in the home. 

The cost of groceries has risen, families are busy and often are headed by single parents. But it’s important to work with what you have in order to help children develop good habits for life.

Connect at mealtimes. 
Eat meals together whenever you can. Turn off the TV and put away screens and devices, so you can unplug, interact, and focus on each other. 

See what you have.
Plan meals with foods you already have. Look in your freezer, cabinets and refrigerator, and be sure to check expiration dates.

Let everyone help. 
Kids learn by doing. Depending on their age, kids can peel fruits, assemble salads, measure, scoop, and slice. Younger ones can mix ingredients, wash produce, or set the table, while older kids can help with ingredients. Everyone can help clean up. 

Serve a variety of foods. 
Include choices from each food group—fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy or fortified soy alternatives—in meals and snacks throughout the week. 

Make good nutrition easy.
Designate a shelf or a drawer in your fridge for your kids. Stock it with cut-up fruits and vegetables, yogurt, nut butters, and whole-wheat mini bagels and crackers.

Plan meal items. 
Reduce stress at mealtimes by planning out meals before the week starts. Include quick and easy dishes, or leftovers, on nights that are extra busy.

Make a grocery list and let kids help shop.
List ingredients for the meals you plan to make and then cross off items you already have. Buying for the week can help you make fewer shopping trips. Let kids participate in grocery shopping online or in the store. Reward them by letting them choose their favorite fruit or maybe a new one.

Offer nonfood rewards. 
Foods aren’t the only rewards kids like. Younger kids may enjoy gathering points toward a special outing, and older kids could earn extra screen time or an allowance.

Love your leftovers.
Prepare enough of a dish to eat multiple times during the week or freeze some to enjoy later. Making leftovers part of your plan can save you time and money.


Other ways to eat healthy on a budget:

Compare similar products. 
Locate the “unit price” on the shelf sticker near the item price. Compare different brands and sizes for the best money-saving option. 

Stretch your food dollars.
Add beans and canned or frozen vegetables to bulk up your meals and make your food dollars go farther. You will reap the benefits of extra fiber, vitamins and nutrients while feeling full.

Grow your own in your home. 
Grow herbs like basil and oregano inside your home for a fraction of the price. Small gardens can be grown on a windowsill or a kitchen counter. 

Buy in bulk.
Save money by buying larger quantities of foods that store well like whole grains, canned or dried beans, and frozen vegetables. Don’t overbuy foods you will throw out later. 

Look for on-sale produce. 
Grocery stores rotate their sales and buying what is on sale is a great way to save money and get variety. Do the same with frozen and canned items.

Just like most health conditions, childhood obesity can be prevented. And, it’s a lot easier to prevent obesity than to treat the numerous physical and mental health issues that can follow childhood obesity into adulthood.

For more budget-friendly food ideas and healthy eating tips, the United States Department of Agriculture has more information at