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Particicpate in National Nutrition Month this March

March is National Nutrition Month, a great time to learn about the nutrients in the food we eat every day!

In March 1973, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Dietetic Association created National Nutrition Week to educate the public about healthy eating while promoting the professions of dietitians and nutritionists. With growing interest in health and nutrition, the campaign became National Nutrition Month in 1980.

Think about what you eat. Do you tend to eat the same foods all the time? How can you increase variety and try new things?

Learn to eat mindfully. Keep a food journal. Think about what you’re putting in your mouth. How does it taste? How does it make you feel? Consider where your food comes from, who cultivates it, and what actions you can take to make the food system just and sustainable in your community and throughout the world.

Eat a plant-based diet. That does not mean vegan or vegetarian. It means choosing more foods from plant sources — not just fruits and veggies, but also whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.

Choose foods from all food groups. Protein foods include meat and eggs, but also legumes (beans), nuts, and dairy. Even some grains, like quinoa, are high in protein.

Vegetables and fruits are important for vitamins, minerals, fiber and other phytonutrients. They should comprise at least half of what we eat.

Carbohydrates like bread, pasta and potatoes provide energy. Fats are needed for the nutrients they contain.

Choose whole, unaltered foods rather than their processed, packaged cousins. They taste better and are better for you. Natural “superfoods” include fresh greens like spinach and kale, nuts like almonds, fruits like apples and oranges, berries like blueberries or strawberries, dairy products like yogurt and kefir, vegetables like carrots, whole grains like quinoa or barley, and legumes like beans and lentils. These foods contain good fats, fiber, powerful antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals. They can neutralize damaging free radicals, reduce your risk of heart disease, and regulate blood sugar levels.

Naturally fermented, unpasteurized foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and others provide probiotics important to good health, immunity and digestion.

Cooking the way our grandmothers did has become a lost skill. Instead, we have come to rely on restaurants and the food industry to provide our food. An entire generation no longer cooks. Many people today don’t know what to do with fresh ingredients.

Learn new skills that will help you create nutritious meals from healthy natural ingredients. With fresh ingredients, basic pantry staples, a few simple tools and just a little time, anyone can create meals that taste better and cost less than industrial or commercial fare.

Plan your meals. Choose vegetables and fruit that are in season, and plan around items on sale at your local supermarket. Planning helps reduce food waste by taking only what you plan to eat, so things don’t go bad sitting too long in your fridge.

For better nutrition, choose fresh over packaged or canned. Be sure to eat some of your vegetables raw, because cooking destroys some nutrients.

Buying at farm stands and at the farmers’ market uses less plastic packaging, so it’s better for the planet. Reducing waste and conserving energy saves money, and food waste contributes to landfills, overloaded sewers and water pollution.

Meals can be wholesome, nutritious, satisfying and inexpensive. Soups, beans, and grains offer nutritious, filling meals while stretching resources.

Celebrate food — and prepare simple, nutritious meals for your family.

Bean and Veggie Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup green peas (fresh or frozen, thawed)

1 cup green or wax beans (fresh or frozen, thawed) cut in one-inch lengths

1 cup cooked or canned garbanzo beans

1 cup cooked or canned pink beans

1 cup corn kernels

1 large green pepper, washed, seeded, and diced

1 large red pepper, washed, seeded, and diced

1 large sweet onion, peeled and diced, optional

1/4 cup finely minced fresh parsley

Dark green lettuce leaves

Dressing:

1 clove garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 to 3 Tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients, except the lettuce, and toss gently. Crush garlic with salt. In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, olive oil, mustard, and honey. Whisk in basil, pepper, and crushed garlic. Pour over salad ingredients; stir to combine.

Line individual salad bowls with several lettuce leaves. Top with a scoop of the salad. Serve at once.

Serves 3 to 4.

Basic Bean Soup

Ingredients:

1 cup dry beans, such as Great Northern, pinto or pea beans

1 quart vegetable or chicken broth or water

bay leaf

few grains of allspice

1 small carrot

1 small parsnip

1 small leek

1 celery stalk

1/4 turnip or few leaves of cabbage

beef bone, ham bone or a couple chicken wings, optional

1/2 cup barley or rice

3 or 4 potatoes, cut up

1 clove of garlic

Salt – 1 teaspoon or to taste

Fresh marjoram and fresh parsley, for garnish

1/2 cup tomato sauce or diced cooked tomatoes, optional

Directions:

Soak beans overnight in 1 quart of water. Or, bring to a boil in the morning, cook 3 – 5 minutes, turn off heat, and let sit for an hour or longer. Drain.

Chop the vegetables. Place everything in a pot with broth, water, vegetables, beans, bay leaf and allspice. Cook about 20 minutes. If using a beef bone or chicken wings, add them now. Add the potatoes and cook 20 minutes longer, or until vegetables are desired consistency.

Remove bones and meat, if using.

Mash garlic with salt, tomato sauce or tomatoes, and fresh herbs. Cook about 5 minutes to blend flavors, taste and adjust seasonings.

For a vegetarian soup, omit meat and add 1/2 tomato sauce or diced cooked or canned tomatoes at the end with the garlic and herbs.

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Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook at Words Are My World.

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