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national health observances 2012

National Health Observances: March is Nutrition Month

Eating right is an essential component of overall health and well-being. This National Nutrition Month, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages you to Get Your Plate in Shape.

The aim is to encourage all of us to include a balanced selection of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and dairy on our plates every day. After years of education campaigns (and that ever-confusing food pyramid), many of us still remain fuzzy on serving sizes, recommended daily allowances, exactly what “sparingly” means, good vs. bad fats, and where things like sodium and processed sugars really come from (hint: the answer is usually “processed food”).

In 2011, MyPlate replaced the food pyramid -- and provided a simple visual solution to recommended daily nutrition

The added challenge in the workplace? Stressed-out employees who are constantly on the run, prone to skipping breakfast and ordering take-out for lunch.

During National Nutrition Month, make it easier for your employees to eat well while they work well. Here are some programming tips:

  • Hand out healthy snacks. Curb the mid-morning dash for the vending machine by giving out whole-grain crackers, apples and bananas, low-sugar granola bars or trail mix, 100-calorie snack packs or veggies with low-cal dip.
  • Praise breakfast. We all know we should eat breakfast, but inevitably we run out of time or forget! Inspire employees to start their days right and host a weekly continental breakfast with whole grain bagels, low-sugar bran muffins, yogurt cups, fruit, and coffee.
  • Help with health on-the-run. Gather menus from popular take-out spots and use them to provide a “healthy lunch” guide, with each restaurant’s most nutritious choices highlighted. Think Eat This – Not That.
  • Teach a class. Invite a local chef or culinary student to teach an on-site cooking class. Focus on simple weeknight recipes that are quick to prepare and include a few inexpensive ingredients. Or try a Top Chef-style cook-off for your workplace’s most talented gourmands. If your site is too small or has no kitchen, organize a free or subsidized cooking class at a community center.
  • Tour the grocery store. Hire a local registered dietitian to take a group on a tour of a local grocery store. An RD can teach people to read ingredient labels, find healthy bargains, plan menus, and accommodate dietary requirements (e.g., high blood pressure, low-sodium diets, diabetes).
  • Take-home, not take-out. Assemble healthy take-home dinner kits with fully prepped ingredients and an easy-to-follow step-by-step recipe, like vegetable fajitas. You can choose whether you provide kits for free or ask employees to pay a small fee ($10 for a meal that feeds four people).
  • Publish a company cookbook. Ask employees to share favorite healthy recipes, or pick a theme, like a specific ingredient, recipes for entertaining, weeknight meals or seasonal food. Celebrate its publication with a potluck lunch.

Other resources

Access healthy recipes, tip sheets, and other National Nutrition Month educational materials here.

Learn more about MyPlate, plus tips for healthy eating on a budget, bilingual materials, a Super Tracker and sample menus, at ChooseMyPlate.gov.

For a full year of National Health Observances, download our free 2012 Wellness Activity Planner.