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How to Spring Clean Your Diet

Did you know March is National Nutrition Month? The annual campaign, sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, encourages healthy eating and increased physical activity. For those struggling with New Year’s resolutions, it’s the perfect time to get back on track.

The first step: Schedule a checkup. “Go and have your yearly physical assessment with your primary care physician or holistic doctor,” said Grace Derocha, registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and health coach with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “See where you’re at today, and then reflect and be honest with yourself… Think about where you are, where you want to be, and some of those steps to get there.”

A lot of people, particularly men, dread going to the doctor. Their diets are prone to common nutrient deficiencies such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and fiber. There’s also a lack of heart-healthy fats and vitamin D, the latter of which is easily obtained through food and exposure to sunlight.

One mineral that’s both necessary and controversial, is sodium. For general good health, Derocha recommends everyone consume 2,300 mg a day. Although, some people may require more due to low blood pressure or other chronic conditions. Speak with your doctor to learn what serving is safe for you.

On the latest episode of the A Healthier Michigan Podcast, hosted by Chuck Gaidica, he and Derocha discuss some of the best ways to spring clean your diet.

There are no quick fixes. Pills and meal replacements are just two of many nutrient sources. “Supplements are called supplements because they’re supposed to supplement the diet,” explained Derocha. Ideally, most nutrients should stem from whole, balanced meals.

Older adults have more pressing dietary needs. They often suffer from dehydration, and struggle with their requirements.  Unlike some other deficiencies, this can be a simple fix. “So, 80 percent of our hydration comes from water, what we drink, but 20 percent comes from our food,” said Derocha. This can be met through fruits, vegetables, soups or stews.

When it comes to nutrition, children look to adults for guidance. Unfortunately, statistics show they’re being steered in the wrong direction. Only eight percent of kids are eating leafy greens on a daily basis. They’re missing vital vitamins and minerals that not only aid growth but combat irregularity and other gastrointestinal issues.

Derocha’s advice: “Make it fun for them. Get them involved in that process of enjoying fruits and vegetables and the colors.” As for adults, remember to stay hydrated, monitor your sodium intake and more importantly, read labels.

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Photo credit: humanmade

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