fbpx How You Should Celebrate National Nutrition Month
Part of a red onion and a kiwi sit on a fork in between lettuce and salmon.

How You Should Celebrate National Nutrition Month

Dietitian and nutritionist Melissa Ann Prest shares important advice on fueling for the future.
María Cristina Lalonde
Written by

María Cristina Lalonde

Sandwiched between Black History Month and Earth Month, National Nutrition Month—a month-long period of awareness helmed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics—occurs every March. For the past 50 years, this annual event has sought to highlight the importance of nutritious food choices and regular exercise.

"National Nutrition Month was created to help consumers learn about and celebrate healthful eating and physical activity," said Melissa Ann Prest, D.C.N., M.S., a Chicago-based dietitian and nutritionist, and official spokesperson for the academy. "We know that our lifestyles have a big impact on our health and it's important for everyone to understand the basics."

A healthy diet has been linked to a variety of physical and mental health benefits, from better sleep to improved mood and cognition. Nutrition also plays a role in sexual and reproductive health, such as with libido, fertility and overall energy levels.

This year, the theme of National Nutrition Month is "Fuel for the Future," which encourages people to choose foods that protect the environment and provide nourishment.

"It's a great reminder that what we eat now impacts our future selves," Prest explained. "We can move our bodies with activities we enjoy and fuel them with foods that are rich in nutrients to prevent illness and increase longevity."

In an exclusive interview with Giddy, Prest shared practical tips for fueling for the future, eating healthy on a budget and introducing lifestyle changes that will carry you through the month and beyond.

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

How would you describe the state of nutrition in the United States?

Prest: It's an interesting time. More people want to know where their food comes from, read food labels to make informed decisions and have a variety of minimally processed food options available. At the same time, hunger continues to be a problem, with 1 in 8 kids at risk for hunger and 10 percent of all households facing food insecurity.

Poor access to healthy food options such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains directly impact health. Studies have shown that in neighborhoods with a higher incidence of food insecurity, rates of chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes are higher than in neighborhoods with a lower incidence of food insecurity.

How does National Nutrition Month help combat poor nutrition in the U.S. and encourage healthier eating?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has ongoing media information shared across a variety of social platforms as well as simple tip sheets and flyers to help educate individuals of all ages and budgets on better nutrition. You can find those educational resources online [at eatright.org].

What are practical ways people can fuel for the future and eat with sustainability in mind?

Buy fruits and vegetables when they are in season to help save money. Choose locally grown produce. Incorporate a meatless meal once or twice a week.

Don't forget about food waste. We waste billions of pounds of food a year. Shop your pantry before purchasing new groceries and plan out what you'll eat for the week. For some people, it may be better to go to the grocery store a couple of times a week and buy only what you need for a couple of days to make sure you use all the food you purchase.

How can people fuel for the future on a limited budget?

Cook more at home. It's much cheaper to make meals at home rather than go out to eat. Stock your pantry with some low-cost staples like beans, rice, oats, barley, canned tuna or salmon, and canned or frozen fruits and vegetables.

As the weather gets warmer, think about starting a garden at home or in the community, and check out your local farmers market. Don't rule out dollar stores, many of which stock their shelves and freezers with low-cost staples that help you keep your food budget in check.

How should people celebrate National Nutrition Month?

Take inventory of your current lifestyle and habits, and pick one nutrition or lifestyle change to focus on for the month. It could be getting to bed earlier every night, including fruit with each meal, drinking more water or walking 500 more steps a day than your normal step average. It does not have to be a big change or multiple changes; just choose one thing to help you improve your habits. Learn more about making healthy choices by checking out eatright.org or following the Eat Right page on social media.