March is National Nutrition Month® which is sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It is an annual campaign to motivate people to make healthy food choices and adopt healthy lifestyle habits. People of all ages and levels of health are invited to dig into strategies for eating more nutritious and tasty foods. Learning about new dishes and flavors is especially important for people with cancer who may be less excited about eating and trying new foods.
Did you know that your tastes can change over the years? The foods you liked as a child can change and evolve over time. Your likes and dislikes about food are shaped by many factors, such as your memories of sharing food with others, encounters with certain foods, religious restrictions, medications, health, perceived health benefits of the food, and how many times you try the food. Avoid getting into a rut with food by eating the same foods each week without variety. A monotonous food intake may cause food fatigue and limit your nutritional health. It is smart to try new flavors and recipes for better nutrient intake and immune support. Here are some strategies:
- Turn up your variety. Have foods from all the food groups each week, including fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, lean protein, and healthy vegetable fats. If you dislike foods in one group, try serving food from that group along with a dish you really like. For example, have a side of veggies with your favorite potato dish; include a fruit cup with your go-to sandwich; or add fish with your favorite stir-fry. The good feelings you have for a favored food can be transferred to a new food or a food you did not like in the past.
- Share traditional foods with friends or family. Explore foods and flavors from another culture. There are many food traditions and dishes you can explore such as Vietnamese pho (noodle soup), Indian biryani (mixed rice), Mexican tamales, or West African peanut stew. America is a blend of many cultures and food traditions. When you eat a new food with a friend or they prepare a traditional dish from their culture for you, the pleasant atmosphere can improve the likelihood that you will enjoy the new flavors.
- Keep trying new flavors. Plan to try a new recipe each week. Don’t be turned off by the food the first time you taste it. Depending on your age, it may take multiple times (3 to 15+) times of tasting a new food or spice to make it taste good to you.
- Imagine the healthy properties of foods as you branch out of your taste comfort zone. Many flavorful foods provide immune support and satisfying feelings when you eat them. Focus on those good food benefits for health and strength, especially if you are in treatment.
See our Meal & Recipes resources for more tips to eat diverse and flavorful foods each month.
Learn more about National Nutrition Month® and find lots of information about healthy eating at EatRight.org.