Before the month gets away, we need to recognize National Nutrition Month — so designated by the world’s largest organization of nutrition professionals, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Theme this year is a cute play on words: Go Further with Food.
While no one diet is best for everyone, say experts, we all need a variety of healthful foods that supply essential nutrients to fuel and sustain us for the long run. The source of those nutrients may differ (vegans and cowboys may choose different protein foods, for example) but our basic nutritional needs remain the same.
One way we can do that, says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is to plan ahead. Designate a day (weekend day off, perhaps) to prepare one or two meals for the coming week. Find recipes to use foods already on hand and make a grocery list for the other ingredients. Prepare and refrigerate the meals you will eat over the next day or two. Freeze the rest in ready-to-reheat portions. And dress up all your meals with fresh fruits and vegetables.
A few more letters from readers:
Q: Just read your column on sodium and I am confused. I’m 82 years old, male. My last blood test indicated my sodium level was low. The nurse said I should reduce my water intake. I said I could increase my salt intake; she said no. Is the sodium test in a blood test different? I am confused as to what to do.
— Bill M. from Fort Smith, Arkansas
It’s confusing because the sodium level in your blood is not always directly related to the amount of sodium you get in your diet. Low levels of sodium in your blood can be caused by a variety of conditions, including some medications, a faulty hormone system or drinking too much water.
Our bodies only need a very small amount of sodium (about 500 milligrams a day unless we sweat profusely). Yet most Americans eat closer to 3500 milligrams. So most people get more than enough sodium without adding more.
Because I am not your medical provider, I cannot give you more specific advice. Best to ask your doctor.
Q: I read your article (regarding the recommendation to avoid processed meats as much as possible). Does smoked trout fall into this category? I do not eat meat but I do eat seafood several times a week and eat packaged smoked trout at least once a week. Thank you.
— Susan K. from Salinas, California
Not an easy question to answer since there is not just one definition of “processed meats.” Most health organizations including the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Health Organization define processed meats as those that are salted, cured or smoked. Although fish is not typically thought of as meat, the smoking process can sometimes produce substances not particularly good for us. Best not to overdo.
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in California. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to firstname.lastname@example.org.