Health Check: Tips for Tasty Meals During National Nutrition Month

Via Peters


Guacamole toast with lime, tomatoes, seeds and red bell pepper.
Photo courtesy of Kjokkenutstyr Net via Flickr (More at 

March is National Nutrition Month. Every year, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spearheads a nutrition education campaign, and this year’s theme is “Celebrate A World of Flavors.” The goal is to help us improve our nutrition and celebrate flavors and cuisines from both our own and other cultures. This National Nutrition Month, we encourage you to try new flavors and foods from around the world.


Many cultures have foods in common that can be prepared in different ways. For example, beans are a popular food in many cultures. Beans are high-fiber, low-fat sources of protein, and a great substitute for meat. They are also inexpensive and easy to cook.


Here are some examples of bean dishes found in different cultures:

  • Sweet beans are popular in some Asian cultures. One example is red bean paste, usually made by cooking red kidney beans, or other beans, down to a paste and adding sugar or honey. This paste becomes the base of sweet desserts. Sweet bean paste covered with sesame seeds is very popular.
  • Pasta fagioli is a traditional Italian dish that means “pasta and beans” and is enjoyed by many cultures. This dish combines cannellini beans with pasta, tomatoes, and garlic to create a delicious dish.
  • Southern-Style Blackeye Peas is a traditional southern dish enjoyed by many cultures. Many versions of this dish incorporate vegetables and herbs to season the beans and can be made with or without meat. This dish goes nicely with cooked collard greens on the side.


Family mealtime is also a tradition in many cultures and a great opportunity to encourage healthy eating habits and family bonding. This National Nutrition Month, we also encourage you and your family to find time to eat meals together, whenever possible. Research from The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shows that family mealtime has many benefits, including:

  • creating a routine around healthy dinners;
  • helping children establish healthy eating habits;
  • teaching table manners;
  • increasing the chances that everyone gets the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, and;
  • strengthening family bonds through sharing food and conversation.


Parents and guardians can create a fun environment around mealtimes to introduce children to different foods and flavors from their own and other cultures. To add more to the family experience, allow your children to choose nightly themes and help with menus. Children can also help you prepare the meal or set the table.


Snacks can also be an important part of a healthy meal plan. When planning family activities, think about purchasing snacks from neighborhood stores that sell foods from different cultures. You will add a new taste to your palate and connect with others in your neighborhood at the same time.


Here are a few ideas for healthy snacks to try with your family:

  • Tzatziki is a creamy yogurt-based dressing, common in Southeast Europe and the Middle East, made with cucumbers, garlic, herbs, and spices. It can be eaten with raw veggies and whole-wheat crackers or used as a sauce with foods
  • Hummus is another dish common in Southeast Europe and the Middle East. Hummus is made from cooked, mashed chickpeas that are blended with garlic, and other herbs and spices. This can also be enjoyed with raw veggies or whole-wheat crackers
  • Guacamole, an avocado-based dish that originated in Mexico, is a popular dish used all over the world as a dip, condiment and ingredient in many salads and sandwiches


When you and your family celebrate National Nutrition Month, it can boost your health and open a whole new world of flavors for you.

Bon Appetit!


Mary Lou Pompei is associate wellness dietitian with the Office of Community and Population Health at Montefiore Health System.


Health Check: Tips for Tasty Meals During National Nutrition Month

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