It starts with a single step.

Eating healthier is often best achieved by starting small – not trying to change everything overnight. That’s the message of National Nutrition Month® 2017 organized by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They are urging people to focus on one forkful at a time during their meals. In other words, to “Put Your Best Fork Forward.”

National Nutrition MonthA Little History: Initiated in 1973 as National Nutrition Week, the public education campaign became a month-long observance in 1980 in response to the public’s growing interest in nutrition. Now, the month of March is an annual celebration with nationwide events, public service campaigns, tip sheets, recipes and other activities to support the idea of taking small steps daily towards a healthier diet. It’s also a way to teach people about registered dietitian nutritionists.

“How much we eat is as important as what we eat, which is why this year’s National Nutrition Month theme inspires us to start with small changes in our eating habits,” says registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson Kristi King.

Also participating in National Nutrition Month is USDA, which is supporting the effort with nutritional advice, videos and interactive tools. It’s a helpful resource if you are a dietitian, educator, parent or person trying to eat healthier. Don’t miss the recipes, BMI calculator and preschooler growth charts.

Paying Attention to What We Eat

eating a salad
Photo by waferboard.

It makes sense to make small steps in our eating behavior and not get overwhelmed by trying to tackle everything at once. We’re more likely to succeed.

This month is about increasing our awareness about nutrition, according to Lorrene Ritchie, director and cooperative extension specialist of UC Nutrition Policy Institute. As she explains:

“’You are what you eat,’ while an oversimplification, sums up the importance of nutrition for all of us every day. National Nutrition Month is an excellent way to remind us to pay attention to what we eat and drink.”

UC Nutrition Policy Institute is one of our go-to resources for nutritional research. The highly respected unit is a division of the UC Agriculture & Natural Resources (UC ANR). It supports the University of California Global Food Initiative, which addresses one of the critical issues of our time: how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach eight billion by 2025.

When we interviewed Pat Crawford, senior research director at UC Nutrition Policy Institute, she told us that it is risky to not change the average diet in the United States.

“The United States – along with Mexico – has the highest obesity rates in the industrialized world. With these extraordinarily high obesity rates, we are on a path toward ever-rising chronic disease rates including not just diabetes, but also heart disease and some cancers, increasing health care costs and reducing productivity.”

Helping college students eat a healthy diet is a goal of Nutrition Week activities at UC Santa Barbara, which has upcoming week-long free activities that teach students about food groups and healthy snacks, while providing free samples. It’s just one example of how UC campuses are encouraging students to make health choices every day of the year.

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