The coordinator of the University’s MS in Nutrition and Dietetic Practice program talks diet trends and healthier lifestyles.
March is National Nutrition Month®, an annual invitation to learn about making informed food choices and establishing healthier eating and well-being habits. March 10 is also Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, which is dedicated to those experts who provide food and nutrition services to patients and the public as a whole.
Rabiya Bower, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who recently joined the University to serve as its coordinator of the prospective MS in Nutrition and Dietetic Practice program.
Students in the two-year program—for which Kati Fosselius, MS, RDN, LDN serves as director—will ideally learn in both classroom settings and in supervised learning experiences in the field with dietitians and other nutrition experts. More information about the program, awaiting accreditation to start in the Fall semester through the College of Health Professions’ Department of Nutritional Sciences, is available via this link.
As part of National Nutrition Month®, Bower offers nutrition tips to help readers spring into a life of better nutrition, while reflecting on current diet trends.
What tips should people who want to spring into healthier eating follow?
Focus on fruits and veggies. Most Americans are falling short of the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. All forms count: fresh, frozen, and canned. Look for options without added salt or sugar. Produce is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Stay hydrated. Water is so important to all our body’s functions, so remember to keep water or other beverages nearby. Try flavoring water with strawberry tops and orange peels for natural flavor. For a “Fauxjito,” try fresh mint and cucumber peels. The options for flavoring water are really endless!
Shop seasonally. With spring right around the corner, there’s some great seasonal produce hitting grocery shelves. Try sweet peas, fresh asparagus, crunchy broccoli or roasted Brussels sprouts as a side with meals or a snack. Now is also the time to enjoy citrus: oranges, kiwi and mango are delicious as a snack, or as a topping for yogurt. The benefits of shopping seasonally are typically lower prices and better flavor.
Try something new. Do you have a recipe you’ve been meaning to make? National Nutrition Month® is a great time to be adventurous and try something new. Whether it’s a new ingredient or cooking technique, you might find a recipe you love! It’s always exciting to have something new to add to your meal plan. Be sure to read the entire recipe so you are prepared to make a new dish.
Good nutrition is also about nourishment. Be sure to pick foods you want to eat. –Rabiya Bower
Choose variety. It’s important to choose foods from each of the five food groups. Each food group offers specific nutrients, whether it’s calcium, fiber or specific vitamins or minerals. A balanced meal has at least three food groups. Be sure to plan meals and snacks with variety. There’s nothing wrong with relying on favorites and pairing them with something new. Have you ever tried peanut butter and baby carrots? It’s a delicious snack!
Enjoy! Good nutrition is also about nourishment. Be sure to pick foods you want to eat. All foods fit, including sweets and treats. Aim for balance and include a variety of foods throughout the day. Food is one of our daily pleasures, so be sure to choose foods you love.
Did any nutrition trends emerge during the pandemic, particularly the early days when people were homebound?
Everyone started cooking at home, and doing so more frequently. As people settled in, there were some really cool food trends on social media. The big one early on was homemade bread. In my community, there was a sourdough starter that was shared—safely—between people who wanted to make sourdough bread on their own. It’s been really cool to see the community bond over food, and that sourdough starter.
The biggest one right now is the baked feta pasta, which is just tomatoes, feta cheese and olive oil. It’s gotten so popular that grocery stores have been running out of feta. I think there’s room for foodies, bloggers and nutritionists to try new things and be creative with their cooking. With my own grocery deliveries, I know I’ve been getting a lot of unexpected substitutions.
What are the healthiest ways to improve nutrition/diet as people start thinking about being outdoors in the summer, particularly the beach?
It’s always important to be hydrated, but especially so as the weather heats up. Water is adequate for most people (no need for fancy sports drinks), but you can also include unsweetened seltzer water, coconut water or water flavored with fresh fruit and herbs. Fill a large jug with ice and your favorite beverage to enjoy all day while you’re outside.
Grilling is a quick and healthy cooking method. You can try grilling fruit to bring out its natural sweetness, or grill a foil packet with fish and veggies for smoky flavor. –Rabiya Bower
Fluid also comes from food, so pack some juicy fruit and veggies for your beach trip. Watermelon, grapes, celery and cantaloupe are all great sources of fluid and will help you feel refreshed after a sandy afternoon on the beach.
Don’t forget to pack snacks to fuel your time outside. These can be simple and satisfying. Apples and nut butter are portable and shelf-stable. Look for granola bars with less added sugar, or toss an easy-to-peel clementine in your bag.
What current diet trends should people know about?
There’s been a lot of chatter about plant-forward diets. These aren’t vegetarian or vegan lifestyles, but rather focusing on making fruits and veggies an integral part of meals and snacks. You can try a meatless meal by using jackfruit in place of pulled pork, or cauliflower steaks in place of red meat. There are lots of exciting ways to incorporate more fruits and veggies in your diet.
There are also a lot of vegetable-based meat replacements on the market. You can even find some of these options at fast-food restaurants. While these new products are exciting, they don’t always provide better nutrition, just different nutrition. Be sure to read the label to see exactly what is in these meat alternatives.
What works well for one person may not work well for another.
As the weather warms up, many pull out their grills and get ready for backyard barbecues. Grilling is a quick and healthy cooking method. You can try grilling fruit to bring out its natural sweetness, or grill a foil packet with fish and veggies for smoky flavor.
Intuitive Eating is gaining traction again, which is great. This method of eating truly honors your body’s own internal cues of hunger and fullness. Reach out to an Intuitive Eating dietitian to learn more about this eating style. It can be beneficial for everyone.
There are always stories in the media about getting your “summer body” ready, but remember: a summer body is just a body that exists in the summer. We all have summer bodies. It’s important to eat well throughout the year and to understand that good nutrition looks different for everybody. What works well for one person may not work well for another. Consult with a registered dietitian to figure out the best eating style for you.