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March is National Nutrition Month

One of the most important changes you can make to your diet is eating more fresh foods. According to a recent report, the five most commonly eaten foods in the United States are all highly processed: sugary soft drinks, cakes and pastries, burgers, pizza, and chips. In addition to being too high in unhealthy fat, sugar and sodium, and too low in nutrients and fiber, these highly processed foods also tend to pack a lot of calories per bite. Make a conscious effort to cut back, and replace these foods for nutritious alternatives, including: water instead of soda; fresh fruit over sweets; grilled poultry, seafood, and beans rather than burgers and pizza; and veggies with hummus in place of chips.

When a Sweet Tooth Strikes, Think Fruit First

Research shows that it can be just as satisfying as sugary treats, and the natural sweetness of fruit is bundled with a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that protect your health. Enjoy sliced fresh fruit with a small dollop of almond butter for dipping, or a drizzle of melted dark chocolate. Bake, grill or sauté fruit with a dusting of cinnamon, and garnish with crushed nuts or shredded coconut. And in place of ice cream, fill pop molds with coconut milk, chopped fruit and chocolate chips and freeze. These healthier alternatives can help you get your sweet fix without feeling sluggish.

If you Drink, Try to do so in Moderation

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about half of Americans describe themselves as regular drinkers. If you imbibe, try to do so in moderation, which means no more than one standard drink per day for women, and two for men (and no, they don’t carry over from day to day!). A standard drink is either a 1.5 oz shot of 80 proof distilled spirits, 5 oz of wine, or 12 oz of beer. To stay hydrated and slow your pace, try to finish 16 ounces of water with every drink. Alcohol can stimulate your appetite, which could result in overeating or scarfing foods you wouldn’t touch if you were sober. Cutting back may be one of the best ways to trim your waistline and protect your health.

Incorporate More Herbs and Spices into Each Meal

One of the easiest ways to add nutrients and antioxidants to your diet also adds lots of flavor. In addition to being an effective way to cut back on sugar and salt, many natural seasonings are known for their ability to reduce inflammation, a trigger of aging and disease. To reap the benefits: sprinkle cinnamon into your morning coffee or oatmeal; stir fresh ginger into natural nut butter or whip it into a smoothie; add garlic and herbs like basil, oregano or rosemary to sautéed or oven roasted vegetables; and add sprigs of fresh mint to your ice water. You’ll enjoy a feast for your senses, and simultaneously boost your nutrition profile.