National Nutrition Month: A Festival for the Soul

National Nutrition Month: A Festival for the Soul

Mar 10 2022

National Nutrition Month was initiated in 1973 and became a month-long observance in 1980 in response to the growing interest in nutrition.

By: Sophia Speroff, MPH, RD

National Nutrition month embraces global cultures, cuisines, and inclusion — an opportunity to give every culture a place at the table. It’s a chance to celebrate cultural heritage, tradition, and recipes to nourish ourselves, learn about one another, and find appreciation in our diversity.

This month highlights the unique, cultural variety of foods available to people from around the world and helps to create healthy habits, fine-tune traditional recipes, and provide alternative cooking methods and other healthful advice, all while celebrating cultural foods and heritage.

Nutritious meals can fit within any cultural preferences. Examples of healthful menu items from cultural traditions include:

  • Chinese: Stir-fried rice with vegetables such as bok choy, snap peas and carrots, along with brown rice and shrimp or chicken.
  • Italian: Minestrone soup with kidney beans added for folate, fiber, and protein; caprese salad with mozzarella served with lycopene-rich tomatoes including basil on top.
  • Greek: Tzatziki sauce (yogurt, cucumber, fresh dill, and loads of garlic) served as a dip with vegetables or on pita sandwiches; and Kolokithokeftedes (zucchini, fresh mint, feta cheese and extra-virgin olive oil) are zucchini balls pan-seared and served with tzatziki.
  • Mexican: Jicama (crisp, slightly sweet root vegetable) peeled and served on a salad with lime vinaigrette and gazpacho made with spinach or cucumbers.

Or try these global cuisine meal ideas that add flavor, variety, and nutrition:

  • Asian Indian: Fruit chutney, dal.
  • Latin American: Mango smoothie, cactus salad, quinoa.
  • European: Polish beets.
  • Asian: Stir-fried greens.

Tips to reimagine traditional dishes:

  • Cook with spices and herbs instead of salt to add flavor.
  • Swap out meat for beans or lentils for a heart healthful plant forward plate.
  • Cook with vegetable oils (olive and canola) instead of solid fats (butter and coconut oil) to limit saturated fat.
  • To decrease extra calories from fat, bake, grill, roast or steam your food instead of frying.

As Amy Choi wrote, “Food feeds the soul. To the extent that we all eat food, and we all have souls, food is the single great unifier across cultures.”

Cultural cuisines are a feast for the senses, a complement of sights, sounds and colors. They’re a festival for the soul, and the heart.

What feeds your soul?

About the Author: Sophia Speroff, MPH, RD is a Registered Dietitian of 10 years with her master’s in public health. Sophia has a tremendous background in both community and patient care and population health management. Her background also includes diabetes and chronic disease prevention and management, clinical dietetics, and wellbeing engagement in underserved communities. She has a passion for staying active, training for triathlons and half marathons and in her free time, Sophia enjoys hiking, folk dancing, and gardening.

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