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March is National Nutrition Month! Choose foods that suit your lifestyle, needs and tastes

MARCH 1 Healthy eating doesn't mean giving up favorite foods. A single food or meal is much less important than a person's overall pattern of food consumption. The Health Department of Northwest Michigan encourages everyone to use March National Nutrition Month as an opportunity to discover healthy eating choices that fit in with challenging lifestyles.

Businesspeople, students and families face unique challenges in eating healthy. For those on-the-go, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends portable, non-perishable, single-serve foods like granola bars, peanut butter with crackers, fruit, trail mix, whole-grain cereal, low-sodium soup or tuna. Students on a tight budget and a tight schedule can eat right if they shop smart: look for snacks that combine protein and carbohydrates, such as apples with peanut butter, carrots and hummus, hardboiled eggs and fruit, bananas and yogurt or almonds with low-fat cheese or whole-grain cereal.

Family meals allow parents to be role models to promote healthy eating, and nutritious meals can be prepared quickly and inexpensively. The Academy suggests building a collection of simple recipes for quick and easy family favorites, and choosing ingredients that can be used for more than one meal. For example, cook extra grilled chicken for chicken salad or fajitas the next day.

The WIC Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children also supports National Nutrition Month. WIC serves low and moderate income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age 5 by providing supplemental food, nutrition education and counseling, and referrals based on health screening and assessments of need. A family of four with an annual income of up to $42,643 may qualify for WIC benefits; call the Health Department at (800) 432-4121 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says there isn't a particular way to eat that's right for everyone. By choosing healthy foods that complement personal needs and preferences, healthy eating can become sustainable long-term. Planning ahead and packing lunches or snacks is one of the best ways to satisfy appetite and nutritional needs. Visit the Academy's Web site at for more information and resources.

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties. For more information, visit the Health Department online at