March is National Nutrition Month®, designated by the American Dietetic Association (ADA). The theme for 2011 is “Eat Right with Colors.” Making sure your diet contains a full range of colors is an easy way to be sure you are getting all the nutrients you need from your meals. First created in 1973 as “National Nutrition Week,” this month aims to bring attention to making healthy choices about eating. This year, the focus is on eating a wide spectrum of colorful foods to get the full range of nutrients that your body needs. Since each color group has a different selection of vitamins and minerals, eating across colors is a fun and easy way to eat healthfully.
The National Nutrition Month® website provides a color guide with some ideas about what kinds of fruits and vegetables fulfill each color group, which we have summarized below.
Green: helps promote healthy vision and may reduce cancer risks. In this category, foods include avocados, apples, broccoli and leafy greens like spinach.
Orange or deep yellow: helps promote healthy vision, supports the immune system, and may reduce cancer risks. Included in this category are oranges, mangoes, carrots and yellow peppers.
Purple or blue: contains antioxidants which may help memory, have anti-aging benefits, and reduce cancer risks. Foods in the blue and purple category include eggplant, blueberries and raisins.
Red: helps maintain a healthy heart and vision, supports the immune system and may reduce cancer risks. Some foods in this category are grapefruit, red peppers and tomatoes.
White, tan or brown: can contain nutrients that promote heart health and may reduce cancer risks. Included in this category are bananas, brown pears, mushrooms and potatoes.
Registered dietitian and ADA spokesperson Karen Ansel recommends adding colorful fruits and vegetables to every meal. “Instead of grilled chicken and mashed potatoes, consider painting a more colorful plate, such as grilled chicken topped with salsa, mashed sweet potato, asparagus and spinach salad with orange slices,” she says. Not only is a meal with a wide spectrum of colors “visually appealing,” Ansel continues, “but it also contains a variety of nutrients and is quite flavorful.” Check out the ADA’s Nutrition Education Resources for more information, games and tips on eating well for the whole family.