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Improve Your Health Through Nutrition


By Dee McCaffrey, Director of Nutrition, Processed-Free America

That famous Chinese proverb depicts the simple small action we can take
when embarking on any great endeavor. If that endeavor involves
improving your food choices, that single step begins with a fork, and
there is no better time to begin than now! March is National Nutrition
Month, the annual campaign by the American Academy of Nutrition and
Dietetics aimed at educating and empowering Americans into healthier

The theme for 2017 is Put Your Best Fork Forward, encouraging us to put
forth our best effort when making changes to the way we eat. Just as a
long journey of a thousand miles can only be achieved by taking one step
at a time, putting your best fork forward suggests starting with small
shifts in your food choices that will add up to big changes over time.

If your goal is to improve your health through nutrition, there are many
ways to be your very best. Whether your goal is to cut back on sugar,
lower your risks for chronic disease, release unwanted pounds, or
increase your energy levels, you will be the most successful by making
small, gradual changes. Start with simple, easy changes and tackle the
more challenging ones after you’ve become comfortable in your new
lifestyle. Along the way, you will build an arsenal of nutritional
knowledge that will sustain you for the rest of your life. With that in
mind, here are some tasty and enjoyable ways to put your best fork

Start with smoothies
We all know how important it is to eat more fruits and veggies. The
challenge is how to make them as fast and convenient as other less
healthful options. Enter smoothies. Smoothies are a great way to pack a
lot of nutrition into one convenient meal. You can literally consume a
large salad’s worth of leafy greens, such as spinach, romaine, kale, or
chard, by blending them in a smoothie along with a couple of servings of
fruit. The delicious flavors of the fruits overpower the bitter flavors
of the greens, so you don’t taste them at all. Your body will be
overjoyed with the high concentration of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and
antioxidants in the fruits and greens. Because all the fiber and pulp of
the fruits are retained in the blended smoothie, you can safely consume
several servings of fruit without spiking your blood sugar. The
additional fiber from the greens helps slow down the absorption of the
fruit sugars even more.

A basic green smoothie can be made with just fruit, greens, and water
—about two cups of greens, two to four servings of fruit, and two cups
of water is a good guideline. This will make about a quart of smoothie,
which can be shared with another person or saved for another meal or
snack later in the day. Water is the best liquid for a smoothie, but you
can replace some of it with herbal tea or non-dairy milk alternatives.
Finally, you may also include other add-ins such as cinnamon, vanilla,
ground seeds, protein powders, unsweetened cacao, and other superfoods.
However, it is best to keep your smoothie simple by selecting only a few
add-ins per smoothie to ensure good digestion and absorption of
nutrients. You can change what you add on different days to allow for a
variety of flavors and nutrients.

Go whole grain with gusto
With all the “new” ancient grains popping up on grocery store shelves,
it’s easy to put your best fork forward when it comes to swapping out
wheat and white rice with a variety of other nutrient-rich grains. The
term “ancient grain” refers to species of whole grains and seeds that
have been part of the human diet for 10,000 years, but haven’t been
modified over time by plant science. These include the original
varieties of wheat — Einkorn, Emmer (farro), spelt, freekeh, and kamut —
and non-wheat grains such as quinoa, red and black rice, blue corn,
buckwheat, barley, rye, oats, amaranth, and millet. Research shows that
many ancient grains are higher in protein, vitamins, minerals, and
antioxidants. Modern grains, especially wheat, have been extensively
altered over time to make them easier to grow and process into flours
and starches that are used in breads, cereals, pastas and baked goods.
Because of the changes modern grains have undergone, they have less
nutrition and some people have developed allergies to the crossbred,
genetically altered proteins.

All whole grains can be cooked like rice — add one cup dry, whole grain
to two cups water or broth, bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover,
and let cook until the liquid has been absorbed and the grains are
tender and chewy. They’re delicious as a hot breakfast cereal with a
splash of almond milk and raw honey as a nice change from the usual
oatmeal, or use them as a base for a “grain bowl” with veggies and beans
or meats. They’re also great in soups, salads, side dishes, stuffing
for bell peppers or squashes, and even desserts like tapioca pudding.

Be a planner and a prepper
By taking the time to plan and prepare food ahead of time, and always
having something healthy in your car, purse, desk drawer, or lunch box,
your ability to make healthy food choices greatly increases. Healthy
snacks like a baggie full of unsalted nuts are great to keep in the car
because they won’t melt. Fresh fruits, plain yogurt, string cheese,
hummus and cut up veggies make great snacks to keep in the fridge at
home or the office. Stock your pantry with canned beans, canned salmon
or tuna, and keep cooked grains and frozen veggies in the freezer to
pull out for quick easy meals.

Plan which meals and snacks you want to have each week, then set aside
some time to prep a few things so that you are not starting from zero
each day in the kitchen. Ask yourself what you can do on the weekend, or
in the morning, or in a free five or ten-minute block in the afternoon
or while you’re on the phone that will help you get ahead of the cooking
curve for the week. Maybe it’s cooking up a pot of brown rice or quinoa
to use in several meals throughout the week or to freeze for future
meals. You can wash and dry a pile of salad greens, chop an onion, or
just set out all the spices you’ll need. Fill up individual containers
with all the ingredients for making your daily smoothies and keep them
in the fridge or freezer. This makes daily smoothies a snap to make —
just dump the ingredients into your blender, add the liquids, turn on
the blender and go! 

One more way to plan is to not bring tempting unhealthful snack foods
into the house. It’s easier to resist cookies and chips if they’re not
in your pantry!

Celebrate National Nutrition Month® this March by taking that single
step. The little choices you make each day matter. What will you put on
your fork today to make your health a top priority?

Dee McCaffrey is an organic chemist, nutritionist and author of The
Science of Skinny and The Science of Skinny Cookbook. Dee lost 100
pounds and has kept the weight off for over 20 years by following a
whole foods diet. She is the founder of Processed-Free America, a
non-profit organization dedicated to bringing a national awareness of
the effect processed foods have on our health, and the healing
properties of natural whole foods. She offers fee based one-on-one
nutrition counseling to help clients find the right nutritional balance
for their lifestyle. Contact Dee at 888-322-9442 or