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Toi Degree column: Nutrition and frozen foods

During each month, there are usually several special days, holidays, awareness weeks and observances. March serves as the perfect time to learn more about health challenges and healthy habits. March is National Nutrition Month, National Frozen Food Month and a host of medical issues are spotlighted during March as well. In this article, I will focus on nutrition and frozen food because the two go hand-in-hand so well.

This year, the theme for National Nutrition Month is, “Personalize Your Plate,” which promotes creating nutritious meals to meet individuals’ cultural and personal food preferences. Because America is a cultural melting pot, you can’t expect everyone’s food choices to look the same, according to registered dietitian nutritionist, Su-Nui Escobar, a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Miami, Florida. “Eating is meant to be a joyful experience. As supermarkets increasingly diversify their shelves to meet the needs of their customers, it’s becoming easier to create nutritious meals that align with a variety of cultural preferences.”

During National Nutrition Month, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to make informed food choices and develop sound eating and physical activity habits they can follow all year long. The academy encourages seeking the advice of registered dietitian nutritionists — the food and nutrition experts who can help develop individualized eating and activity plans to meet people’s health goals. “Variety is the spice of life and that’s how people should view their meals,” Escobar said. Spice up your menus with the foods and flavors you enjoy, and add new flavors to spark excitement in your cooking. “Developing healthful eating habits does not require drastic lifestyle changes.”

Frozen foods can be a very easy way to incorporate fruit and vegetables into your diet. Frozen food gets a bad rap once in a while; some say it has negative effects or is loaded with preservatives… But as long as you check the ingredients list and choose the options with the shortest list of ingredients (that you can pronounce, preferably), you’re in the clear. Here are some fun and surprising facts about frozen food that might leave your stomach growling.

  • Frozen food doesn’t expire! You can leave food in the freezer indefinitely without it spoiling but the longer you leave it, the more the freshness, quality and flavor will decline.
  • It’s safe to refreeze food after you’ve taken it out of the freezer to place in the fridge but again, the quality and flavor will suffer.
  • You can buy frozen fruits and vegetables for a consistently healthy diet, and they won’t spoil like they do in the fridge or sitting on your counter.

Whatever you choose to do to make healthier choices, remember to make half your plate fruits and vegetables, a quarter of your plate starches and/or grains (whole-grains), a quarter of your plate protein, and ensure a calcium source such as milk or an alternative. And, don’t forget to get some physical activity in daily as well. Take care, and stay safe!

For more information on how long to store food, go to https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep-food-safe/foodkeeper-app .

National Nutrition Month Campaign Toolkit: https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition-month/toolkit

Toi N. Degree, is associate family and consumer education agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Contact her at 704-216-8970 or toi_degree@ncsu.edu .

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