March Is National Nutrition Month!

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Sweet Potato Fries on a plate

Enjoy Sweet Potato Fries in March and Every Month!

March is National Nutrition Month and a great time to take a look at your eating habits and determine if your food choices are the providing you and your family with good nutrition.This year’s theme, Eat Right, Bite by Bite, promotes eating a variety of nutritious foods every day, planning and creating healthful meals each week, and being mindful of the food you choose to eat. Good nutrition doesn’t have to be restrictive or overwhelming. Small goals and changes can have a cumulative healthful effect, and every little bit (or bite!) of nutrition is a step in the right direction. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Include healthy foods from all food groups. Choose My Plate
  • Get plenty of water, especially during physical activity.
  • Learn how to read Nutrition Facts Panels.
  • Practice portion control.
  • Take time to enjoy your food.
  • Learn to prepare a quick, easy, nutritious recipe.

While it is still cold outside there are plenty of vegetables “in season” to take advantage of. On of my favorites is the sweet potato. Sweet potatoes, especially orange and yellow ones, are an excellent source of vitamin A in the form of beta carotene. Vitamin A is important for eye health, as it improves night vision and decreases the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. Vitamin A also helps fight off infection. High amounts of vitamin C are also found in sweet potatoes. One plain baked medium sweet potato has close to 4 grams of fiber and about 100 calories. Not only does the sweet potato promote good health throughout life, its versatility in the kitchen makes it an awesome healthy convenience food. Here are my top five ways to enjoy sweet potatoes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F, scrub the potato under running water, dry with a paper towel, place on sheet pan and bake until fork tender. Top with your favorite toppings or just eat it plain (I love it this way)!
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F, scrub potatoes under running water, peel and cut into julienne strips (sweet potato fries), toss in olive oil, salt and pepper and bake 40-50 minutes or until desired doneness. (I like mine crispy and I love to dip them in spicy ranch dip).
  3. Preheat oven to 400°F, scrub potatoes under running water, peel and cut into 2 – inch cubes along with white potatoes, carrots and parsnips. Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper, place on a foil lined baking sheet and roast 40-50 minutes or until fork tender.
  4. Dice sweet potatoes, sauté lightly in olive oil and add them to your favorite chili recipe. I have added them to vegetarian chili as well as beef-based chili. Adding sweet potatoes to chili adds nutrients, fiber, and flavor and at $1.00 or less per pound they can stretch your food dollar as well.
  5. Finally, for those special occasions there is nothing better than a sweet potato casserole. I am pretty confident that there is at least one sweet potato casserole recipe in every church and community club cookbook from Manteo to Murphy so I will let you find your favorite one!