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March 1, 2011

National Nutrition Month 2011®: Tasty Ways to Eat Right with Color

Eat Right Montana logoBy Eat Right Montana

March is National Nutrition Month®, celebrated every year by the American Dietetic Association (ADA) to focus on the importance of nutrition for health, happiness, and overall wellbeing. This year’s theme - Eat Right With Color - aligns with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans released on January 31, 2011.

"Eat Right With Color is a fun, easy, and positive way to talk with kids about nutrition," says Crystelle Fogle, MBA, MS, RD (Registered Dietitian), with Montana’s Cardiovascular Health Program. "We know that eating habits begin early in life, when parents and other adults can model smart food choices for children. Color is one helpful guide to eating a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods every day."

In releasing the new Dietary Guidelines, nutrition experts noted that few American children get the variety of foods they need for optimal growth, development, and performance in school. Just like adults, many children are getting too many calories, but not enough nutrients. Americans are especially deficient in fiber, vitamin D, calcium, and potassium. According to the Dietary Guidelines report, the solution is not taking dietary supplements, but rather an increase in nutrient-rich foods from all the food groups.

"The natural color of food is often a good indicator of nutritional value. In general, deep colors mean that foods have the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that our bodies need for optimal health at any age," notes Fogle. "Here are just a few of the tasty colors that can put delicious nutrition onto your family’s plates - and help them maintain healthier weights, as well as a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer."

1) Green: Tasty options include spinach, leaf lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, beans, and snap peas. If your kids aren’t wild about cooked vegetables, try a tossed salad of baby spinach with apple slices and light dressing.

2) Orange and yellow: Popular picks include baby carrots, oranges, tangerines, peaches, and pineapple. Get into a simple fruit-for-dessert habit: refreshing slices of fresh orange or canned-in-juice mandarin oranges.

3) Blue and purple: Beets, grapes, plums, and blueberries are all nutritious selections. Frozen blueberries are well-accepted and versatile. Sprinkle berries on breakfast cereal, fruit salad, or vanilla yogurt for a treat.
4) Red: While there are lots of red fruits, veggies, and beans, lean red meats - like beef, pork, and lamb - are also important sources of the protein, iron, and zinc that children need to grow and maintain muscle mass.

5) White: Fat-free/low-fat dairy foods are excellent sources of three missing nutrients (vitamin D, calcium, and potassium). Three servings a day of milk, cheese, or yogurt help kids grow strong bones and teeth.

6) Brown and tan: Whole grains now come in a range of crunchy, healthy colors. Buy products that list a whole grain as the first ingredient on hot and cold breakfast cereals, breads, rolls, crackers, and pasta.

"As a mom, I’m always looking for practical shopping and cooking tips," adds Fogle. "ADA’s new website www.kidseatright.org has great information and recipes for Nutrition Month - and all year round!"

Eat Right with Color

Nutrition experts agree that vibrant, brightly-colored, whole foods are often the healthiest bargains in the grocery store. They tend to be nutrient-rich - meaning that more nutrition is packed into every calorie.

Processed and packaged foods tend to have more fat, sodium, and added sugars (with bright artificial colors rather than natural goodness). These items also tend to come with higher price tags since you pay for fancy packaging and advertising.


Savvy shoppers know that planning ahead is the best way to get the most delicious nutrition for your grocery dollar. Smart shopping isn’t necessarily more complicated or time-consuming - it is just more deliberate and thoughtful.

1) Make a list: Take a few quiet minutes to make a careful list, based on your family’s schedule for the week and what you already have available in your kitchen.

2) Check specials: Take advantage of store sales and lower prices on seasonal produce items to save big. Check newspaper ads, in-store circulars, or online specials.  

3) Snack smart: Seriously! When you’re hungry, you’ll make more impulse buys that are expensive and higher in calories. Eat some string cheese or fruit before shopping. 


1) Concentrate on the perimeter of the store: In most grocery stores, the most healthful, freshest foods are along the outside walls - in the meat/fish/poultry, dairy, produce, and sometimes bakery departments. Do most of your shopping here.

2) Stroll the canned, frozen, and cereal aisles: There are plenty of nutrient-rich choices on the aisles too, especially on those with cereals, rice, legumes (dried and canned beans/peas), canned fruits in juice, and frozen vegetables and berries.

3) Skip the candy, cookie, snack, and soft drink sections: It’s no secret that the packages and displays in these aisles are designed to tempt you into buying things that you don’t really need. Keep them out-of-sight and out of your shopping cart.


Fill your shopping cart with the colors of good health, like green broccoli, purple grapes, yellow peppers, orange cantaloupe, black beans, brown rice, pink salmon, lean red meat, and low-fat white milk. Your family will eat better and feel better.

Fun on the School Playground

Old-fashioned outdoor play used to be the norm for kids across America. While concerns about safety may limit some options, most neighborhoods have at least one place where families can enjoy outdoor fun together - the school playground.  Most playgrounds have enough equipment for at least 30 minutes of active play - even more if you bring a ball and a couple of friends. If your school playground needs some work, get the PTA/PTO involved in creating spaces for family activity.


1) After school: Take 20 or 30 minutes for active play right after school. It will burn off some extra energy and get kids’ brains ready to focus on homework or other lessons.

2) On the weekend: Set aside family time to walk/bike to the school playground and enjoy activities together. Give everyone a turn to choose which games to play.
3) During vacations: Most school playgrounds are open for fun 365 days a year. No need for cabin fever - winter or summer - just head to the playground.


Here is a short list of playground activities. Need more games? Forgot how to play Four-Square? No worries! A quick web search will help you find all kinds of fun ideas.

1) Shoot some hoops: Most schools have several kid-sized outdoor baskets.

2) Slide and swing: There’s fun for everyone on slides, swings and monkey bars.

3) Kick a ball: Footballs, soccer balls, dodge balls, Nerf® balls, or any ball you find! 

4) Climb a wall: Jungle gyms and climbing walls are fun ways to build strong arms.
5) Bounce into a square: Many playgrounds have several Four-Square courts.

6) Toss a Frisbee®: All it takes is a disc and a wide open space. 

7) Hop through a pattern: Draw a chalk diagram and play hopscotch anywhere. 

8) Hide-n-seek - or tag a friend: These games keep everyone running around.

9) Ride a bike or a trike: For an extra challenge, set up a course with traffic cones.

10) Walk, skip, or jump: Free-form play is good for kids, adults, and dogs too!


Make it fun, do it together! Playing together at the school playground is good for kids’ physical and mental health. And, it might help them do better in the classroom too!!

Obesity and Food Insecurity

With increased attention to the weight of Americans, it has become clear that not all socioeconomic groups are affected equally. According to the Food and Research Action Center (FRAC): "While all segments of the population are affected by obesity, low-income and food insecure people are especially vulnerable due to the additional risk factors associated with poverty."      
More information at www.frac.org/html/hunger_in_the_us/hunger&obesity.htm.

What we know

While it may seem counter-intuitive, obesity and hunger (or food insecurity) can exist at the same time in families and individuals. Possible reasons for this paradox:

1) Limited resources or access to healthful foods: Many low-income areas are now ‘food deserts,’ with few grocery stores or farmers’ markets. In these areas, convenience stores and fast-food outlets provide cheap, high-calorie, nutrient-poor options.

2) Deprivation and overeating: People who skip meals when food budgets are tight, may naturally tend to overeat when food is more available. Cycles of ‘famine or feast’ may be most common among low-income mothers who sacrifice to feed their children.

3) Limited physical activity and higher stress levels: Safe places to be active (indoors and outside) are often limited in low-income neighborhoods. Stress, from the pressures of poverty, violence, and food insecurity, has been linked to obesity in kids and adults.

What you can do:

Refrain from making assumptions based on weight.

Weight prejudice is unfortunately common in our society. Larger people are often seen, inaccurately, as lazy overeaters, who are not concerned about their health.   
Nothing about a person’s lifestyle or choices can be determined solely by weight. It’s also impossible to tell what health or financial challenges an individual may be facing.

Contribute to local groups working on food insecurity.

Many food banks, community pantries, and faith organizations are working together to find long-term solutions to chronic food insecurity for families.

Find out what types of contributions are most useful in your community. Sometimes donations of cash or time are more appropriate than actual food donations.    

Support efforts to improve access to local food.

Recognizing that access to fresh, healthful food is limited in many low-income areas, local food policy councils are sprouting in both urban and rural communities.
Groups can develop community gardens, cooperative stores, or farmers’ markets - all ways to provide a hand up to better nutrition rather than just a handout of food.

 Veggie-Bean Wrap

All 2011 recipes will meet the following criteria:

  • Require minimal ingredients that are easy to find and affordable
  • Involve minimal preparation time and use common kitchen equipment
  • Include a complete nutritional analysis and lots of delicious flavors


  • 2 green, red, or yellow bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 15-oz. can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 mangos, chopped (may substitute tomatoes, peaches, or other fruit)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 avocado, peeled diced
  • 4 8-inch whole wheat tortillas


  • In a nonstick pan, sauté bell peppers and onion for 5 minutes over medium heat.  Add beans; stir well. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 5 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, combine mangos (or other fruit), lime juice, cilantro, and avocado. Reserve ½ mixture for topping.
  • Fill warmed tortillas with ¼ bean mixture and ¼ mango mixture.
  • Fold ends of the tortillas over. Roll up to make wraps. Top veggie bean wraps with remaining mango mixture.

Yield: 4 wraps

Getting kids cooking:

  • Children can squeeze the lime and combine the ingredients.
  • They can also help fill and roll the tortillas into wraps.
  • Serve with a glass of low-fat milk and a tossed green salad.
  • Offer fresh or bottled salsa for those who like a bit of extra spice.

 Nutrition Analysis: 1 wrap

  • Calories: 350      
  • Total Carb: 61 g
  • Protein: 11 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 15 g
  • Total Fat: 8 g     
  • Calories from Fat: 20.5%        
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g         
  • Trans Fat: 0 g    
  • Sodium: 580 mg
  • Calcium: 111 mg
  • Iron: 4 mg

Source: New Hampshire DHHS DPHS, Fruit and Vegetable Program

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD (EatRightMT2000@gmail.com) developed this information for Eat Right Montana, a coalition promoting healthy eating and active lifestyles. Past and current issues of Eat Right Montana’s monthly nutrition and physical activity tips can be downloaded free at www.eatrightmontana.org/eatrighthealthyfamilies.htm.)

Page last updated: 07/30/2013