March isn’t just the time when seasons begin to change and spring starts to take hold. It’s also National Nutrition Month, organized by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This year, the focus is on using nutrition information to develop balanced and healthy eating and lifestyle habits, under the theme “Personalize Your Plate.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Overview & History
The National Nutrition Month has its origins in the 1970s. It was originally initiated in 1973 as National Nutrition Week. Thanks to a surge in interest in nutrition, National Nutrition Week was lengthened in 1980 to become National Nutrition Month.
This year, the Academy has chosen the “Personalize Your Plate” theme for 2021. They will be hosting resources to spread their message about good nutrition and the importance of a healthy lifestyle, regardless of your age.
“Personalize Your Plate”
As the 2021 theme for National Nutrition Month, understanding what “Personalize My Plate” is crucial to being able to observe National Nutrition Month.
To put it simply, “Personalize My Plate” is all about promoting and creating nutritious meals that meet a person’s individual, cultural, and personal food preferences. The Academy has chosen to spend this year encouraging the public to make more informed food choices while also developing strong eating and physical activity habits.
To aid in their educating the public, the Academy is using the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines are in place to be the authority in helping people of all ages meet their dietary needs while also limiting added sugars and saturated fats.
“Find An Expert” Service
Another way the Academy is trying to help the public by offering the “Find An Expert” service. This is meant to help you find a registered dietician or nutritionist in your area to help you learn the best eating and physical activity habits for you and your lifestyle.
The dietitians and nutritionists will also be helping people to learn how to use the MyPlate tool. This gives practical, consumer-friendly advice and tips to help people follow the key recommendations within the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The MyPlate tool works by recommending imagining your plate in nutrient-rich sections:
- 1/4 for grains
- 1/4 for proteins
- 1/2 for fruits and vegetables
Following Nutrition Labels
Part of being able to make informed decisions about your nutrition is following and understanding nutrition labels. In 2018 the FDA announced a Nutrition Innovation Strategy. This was put in place to set forth a strategy to reduce preventable death and disease related to poor nutrition. The key is education. Part of the strategy was an update to nutrition labels.
The following changes were made to nutrition labels:
- The serving size is now larger and in a bold font
- Some serving sizes have been updated
- Calories are also now displayed in a larger and bolder font
- Daily values were updated
- Added sugars, vitamin D, and potassium are now listed
- Manufacturers are required to state the amount of added sugars, vitamin D, and potassium in addition to the percent of Daily Value for the vitamins and minerals
As you observe National Nutrition Month this year, take some time to study nutrition labels so they are clear and make sense. Start practicing the MyPlate tool to have the correct ratios of nutrient-rich foods on your plate. And for extra help, use the Academy’s “Find An Expert” service.