March is National Nutrition Month®

Written by: Joelle Patterson, Registered Dietitian, LIFE Beaver County.

Joelle Patterson, Registered Dietitian, LIFE Beaver CountyThis month we focus on the importance of making informed food choices and developing better eating and physical activity habits to help us live a more abundant life. It’s no secret that consuming more fruit, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy and whole grains can help us reach our health goals, but the question is where do we start?

The first step is setting realistic goals. Even though weight loss is usually the primary goal, there are other ways to measure if you are improving your health. Consider goals that focus on improving your blood sugar, cholesterol or blood pressure so that you do not have to take as many medications.

Next, look at changes that you can start to make in your daily routine. Start small and then work your way towards better lifestyle changes. For example, if you currently do not eat any vegetables, consider adding a vegetable to one of your meals for the first month and then include vegetables with two meals after that. If you do not like eating veggies as a side dish, you can add them to scrambled eggs, broccoli to macaroni and cheese or substitute vegetables in place of meat on your pizza.

Use MyPlate as your guide to build a healthy plate.

  • ¼ plate grains or starches (½ cup whole grain pasta or brown rice, ½ cup potatoes, 1 slice 100% whole wheat bread, 1 six-inch corn or 100% whole wheat tortilla)
  • ¼ plate or less of fruit
  • ¼ plate lean protein (lean meat, fish, skinless poultry, tofu, eggs, beans, peas or lentils)
  • ¼- ½ plate vegetables
  • Enjoy a serving of dairy on the side (low-fat milk, plain yogurt or low-fat cheese).

Kick salt to the curb. Using herbs and spices to boost flavor will help to eliminate the need for salt and may help to reduce the amount of butter or oil used to flavor food.

Look at your snack choices. Maybe try an apple or banana with some peanut butter or try Greek yogurt with fruit. Pre-portioning your snacks also prevents mindless overeating.

Don’t forget to exercise. Starting small may help to prevent the feeling of exhaustion or being out of breath. If able, you may try to start with a five-minute walk or even do bicep curls with soup cans. Then work on gradually increasing physical activity to a total of 2.5-5 hours each week.

Find your support system. Who can help you stay on track? Ask a friend or family member to help you on your journey even if it is just a phone call for support. Keeping a food journal may also be beneficial.

For more information about the LIFE Programs of Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, and Lawrence

Call (412) 356 -1673 or visit

Lutheran SeniorLife

Lutheran SeniorLife is a premier provider of senior services with the broadest and deepest continuum of integrated services throughout the tri-state region. Through a variety of senior living communities and care options, Lutheran SeniorLife can meet the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of each individual; providing Abundant Life® opportunities for those we serve and those who serve. Services include adoption; adult day services; affordable housing; assisted living; home health; home safety monitoring; hospice; LIFE (Living Independence for the Elderly); Meals on Wheels; outpatient rehabilitation services; palliative care; personal care; residential living; senior centers and skilled nursing. To learn more, visit