Audrina Garcia Audrina Garcia
Credit: Jett Loe

Spring Clean Your Diet

National Nutrition Month can help you return to healthy living

How's your 2019 diet going for you?

If you're asking yourself, "What diet?" or if your New Year's resolution to eat healthier has pretty much gone kaput, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics can help you course correct.

National Nutrition Month, which takes place annually in March, is a healthy eating campaign piloted by the 102-year-old organization. This year, the academy, which dubs itself as the world's largest collective of food and nutrition professionals, is offering healthy living resources that aren't pigeonholed to a specific set of rules. According to the academy website, "There's no one diet that is right for everyone, so it's important to follow a healthful eating plan that's packed with tasty foods and that keeps your unique lifestyle in mind."

For healthy eating tips, we checked in with Audrina Garcia, chef at The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center's happy heart BISTRO, located on UNM's North Campus.

The Five Essential Items in Your Kitchen

1. Leafy Greens
"While leafy greens are best known for their fiber, they also provide vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, like iron and calcium," Garcia says. "There is a huge variety of leafy greens that tend to never get explored much, but are wonderful to eat." These include arugula, Swiss chard, mustard greens and microgreens.

2. Greek Yogurt
"Not only is it great to have as a snack, but you can also use it in cooking," Garcia says. "Greek yogurt is filled with probiotics, protein, calcium and vitamin B12... and you can incorporate it in soups, desserts, sauces and marinades."

3. Seafood
Garcia explains that fish is loaded with all sorts of good stuff, including protein, vitamin D, good fatty acids, and omega-3 fatty acids. "Omega 3 is good for your body as a whole, but is especially good for your heart," Garcia says. "It helps to reduce inflammation, blood pressure and triglyceride levels." She suggests grilling, steaming or poaching freshwater coho salmon, sardines, cod or mahi-mahi.

4. Spices
Overwhelmed by the abundance of spice choices? Don't be. "You can never go wrong with what you choose," Garcia says. "Spices are the world's natural healing medicine. They are great for inflammation, the heart, blood, joints, diseases and so much more." She suggests stocking turmeric or curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, on the spice shelf.

5. Quinoa or Couscous
Garcia says the grains are high in protein, fiber, iron, potassium and antioxidants. According to a article, quinoa is one of the few plant foods that contains all nine essential amino acids.

What About the Sweet Stuff?

If your sweet tooth won't stop hounding you, Garcia recommends cocoa nibs, which are almost entirely sugar-free. "Cocoa nibs are chocolate in its most wholesome form. Derived from cacao beans, they provide antioxidants, fiber, iron and magnesium."

Healthy Recipes

For National Nutrition Month, Garcia whipped up a couple of recipes -- chicken tortilla soup and coconut panko eggplant with red pepper relish -- which can be found in the sidebar of this article.

Categories: Features, News You Can Use

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