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National Nutrition Month March is National Nutrition Month.

Created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the goal is to raise awareness about the importance of proper nutrition in the diet. One of the cornerstones of living a healthy life is an appropriate diet. In celebration of National Nutrition Month, consider some tips that will help you improve the nutrition in your life and that of your family.

Cut the Sugar

People tend to associate sugar with sweet things. It is not the sweetness that is bad for you. It is the processing of sugar. It is possible to enjoy the sweet taste you love without introducing refined sugar into your body. Make one of your goals this year to eliminate processed sugar from your life. Get in the habit of baking with fruit sugar and replace the candy and baked goods with whole fruit. Once you train your body to live without refined sugar, you’ll get just as much enjoyment out of a piece of fruit.

Eat Whole Grains

Along those same lines, now is the right time to cut out processed grains, too. Put down the white bread and pick up a loaf of whole grain. If you want to stay away from wheat, then look for other kinds of whole grains like oatmeal, sprouted grain, chickpea flour, or quinoa.

Make Each Meal a Rainbow

Traditionally, the more colorful plant food, the better it is for you. Often the healthiest part of the plant is the pigmentation that gives it color. That is where the antioxidants live. Antioxidants help reduce the damage caused to cells by aging and the environment. Make an effort to create a rainbow with at least one-half of every plate. For example, you might fill a quarter with broccoli, a quarter with carrots, and the rest with beets. Just remember to make your plate as colorful as possible. If you focus on the color, you’ll find you are eating fewer calories, too. Most starchy, high-calorie carbs lack color.

Don’t Forget the Dark, Leafy Greens

While you are designing your rainbow, add a few dark leafy greens for added nutrition. Kale, spinach, lettuce – these leafy greens are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Give Fat the Respect It Deserves

Fat gets a bad rep in the world of nutrition, but it is not all created equally. Your goal should not be to cut out all fat but to eliminate bad fat. That would be trans and saturated fats like you get in fast food. Focus on healthy fats as you get from extra virgin olive oil, avocados, and oily fish. This fat will help your heart instead of hurting it.

Sleep More

What does sleep have to do with good nutrition? Everything – poor sleep can interfere with appetite hormones, so you eat more than you need to and trigger cravings for all the wrong foods like sugar and fat. Poor quality sleep can also lead to insulin resistance which is the precursor for diabetes. It can drive your eating habits, too. If you are tired, you are more likely to grab a quick bite somewhere than go home and cook a healthy meal. National Nutrition Month is a reminder to put some thought into what you eat. Good health starts with good nutrition. It isn’t as hard as it sounds once you make eating right a goal instead of a chore.