National Nutrition Month: Beyond the Table

Mach in National Nutrition Month. This year's theme is "Beyond the Table."

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. Members of the Academy, including registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs), play a key role in shaping the public's food choices and are committed to improving the nation’s health. RDNs offer preventive and medical nutrition therapy services in a variety of settings, and they are a trusted source about what types of food to eat.

Each year during March, we celebrate National Nutrition Month, which is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored by the Academy. It invites everyone to learn about making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. The theme for National Nutrition Month this year is Beyond the Table, which highlights the farm-to-fork aspect of nutrition, addresses the many ways and places we eat, emphasizes sustainability efforts, and showcases the expertise of nutrition and dietetics professionals. 

Develop A Healthy Eating Routine

A healthy eating routine describes a way of eating that includes nutritious foods and drinks on a regular basis. This approach to eating is different than many fad diets, which promote unnecessary restrictions or require people to eat a certain way. Healthy eating routines can vary, since we all have different food preferences, budgets, cooking skills, traditions, etc. According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “a healthy eating routine is important at every stage of life and can have positive effects that add up over time.” This means we’re never too young or too old to adopt a healthy eating routine.

Stay Nourished on Any Budget

It may seem challenging at times to pick foods that are healthier, especially with the cost of so many goods increasing over the past few years. Staying nourished on any budget may require more planning in advance in order to stretch your food dollars. Below are a few ways that can help:

  • Learn cooking, food preparation and meal planning skills.
  • Use a grocery list and shop sales when purchasing food.
  • Learn about community resources such as SNAP, WIC and local food banks.
  • Practice home food safety.

Preparing foods at home allows you to control the ingredients, their amounts and how the foods are made. By learning cooking, food preparation and meal planning skills, you can identify ways to substitute lower cost ingredients, if need be, use lesser amounts in some cases, and increase the nutrition of many dishes. A good place to start is with planning your meals and snacks. Before going to the store, check what foods you have at home, then use a grocery list and shop sales when purchasing the foods you need. It may also help to learn about resources in your community, such as SNAP, WIC, and local food banks. These types of programs offer food assistance to individuals who are eligible.

Practice Home Food Safety

Practicing home food safety also relates to nourishment and is especially important for individuals who are at higher risk of foodborne illness, also known as food poisoning. Infants, older adults and people with certain health conditions, like diabetes and cancer, and individuals who are pregnant are at increased risk of foodborne illness. Steps you can take to keep food safe at home include:

  • Washing your hands with soap and water before preparing or eating food. Cleaning surfaces that are used to prepare foods is also important.
  • Keeping raw foods separate from foods that are already cooked or ready-to-eat. This may involve using different cutting boards and utensils when preparing these foods to prevent what is known as cross-contamination.
  • Cooking foods to their appropriate internal temperature is also needed. Using a food thermometer is the only way to make sure that a food is cooked thoroughly and is safe to eat.
  • Refrigerating perishable foods right away helps to keep them out of the Temperature “Danger Zone”, where bacteria multiply at a faster rate. Foods left out at room temperature for two hours or longer are unsafe to eat. (One hour if the temperature is 90° Fahrenheit or higher).

Eat with the Environment in Mind

Our food choices also can affect the health of our planet. That’s why it’s important to eat with the environment in mind. Make a point to learn what’s involved in growing your food. Visit a local farm or farmers market and talk with the people who are growing and harvesting your food. Finding ways to reduce food waste will also help.

  • Get creative with leftovers and ways to reduce food waste.
  • Enjoy more plant-based meals and snacks.
  • Buy foods in season and from local farmers when possible.
  • Grow food at home or in a community garden.

Remember that a healthy eating routine is one that meets your unique needs. There are many ways to eat healthfully Beyond the Table. If you would like to improve your current eating habits and would benefit from personalized nutrition guidance, a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you develop a healthful eating routine that is as unique as you are. 

* Derived from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ National Nutrition Month Campaign Resources .