By Oanhie “Shinsen” Pham, Copy Editor

Celebrate this year’s National Nutrition Month by munching down healthy, colorful food choices.

The theme for this year’s National Nutrition Month — which is celebrated in March — is “Eat Right with Color.” The campaign is created by the American Dietetic Association to help spread about the importance of eating and exercising properly.

Going on a diet or exercising alone won’t give us the full benefits we want and need. When we go on diets, we tend to think that eating less will give us the most beneficial results. However, up to a third of women between the ages of 20 and 40 don’t get enough protein, which should be about 50 to 175 grams a day (or 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories, based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. What’s more, not getting enough protein in your body can actually put you more at risk for osteoporosis, a disease that will cause you to have brittle bones.
Osteoporosis can affect anyone at any age, but more so women than men. Asian and Caucasian women are even more at risk. As women, we need to take care of our bodies to prevent or slow down bone loss. Some factors we are in control of are our activity levels and diets.

According to “Women’s Health” magazine, women aren’t getting their recommended amounts because a diet trend is to count calories. Foods such as meats, fish, beans and cheese not only come packed with protein, they also have more calories. So it seems logical to avoid them. However, protein is essential for building lean muscle and zapping away unwanted calories, according to “Women’s Health.” If you want to build lean muscle, “Women’s Health” recommends consuming skinless white chicken or turkey, seafood, low-fat dairy, pork tenderloin and lean beef. For seafood, try salmon and canned tuna to get the vitamin D you need. Fat-free or low-fat yogurt (frozen or not), milk, soy milk, tofu, cheese, bok choy, broccoli, almonds and soybeans are all examples of food that contain calcium.

Not only will getting enough proteins and other nutrients in your body make you look and feel good, you are also lowering your risk for osteoporosis. Of course, it’s not just about eating healthy. Regular physical activity will help you achieve your health goals. Best Bones Forever states that you need to do at least 60 minutes of physical activities every day, and do bone-strengthening activities at least three days a week.

So let National Nutrition Month remind you to get your nutrition on by starting a healthy eating pattern or continue doing so. Eating healthy does not have to be bland and expensive. Have a girls’ night in with a potluck. Create a salad potluck by having each person bring in a yummy (colorful and healthy) ingredient to share. Have a sushi night and make rolls of sushi using brown rice instead of white rice. Don’t forget the salmon, tofu and other calcium and protein-filled ingredients.

Give your meals a colorful splash by following this guide by the American Dietetic Association.
**With these in mind, the association recommends lower intakes on foods with added sugars, solid fats, including trans fats, refined grains and sodium.**

Whole grains:
Increase whole grains by choosing whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice and whole wheat pasta. Make at least half your grain servings whole grain.

Vegetables:
Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green, red and orange vegetables plus beans and peas. Most adults need 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day.

Fruits:
Add fruit to meals and snacks — fresh, frozen or canned — to get about 2 cups each day.

Low-fat or fat free milk, yogurt and cheese or fortified soy beverages:
Include 3 cups per day for calcium, vitamin D, protein and potassium. Lactose-free milk is also an option.

Vegetable oils  such as canola, corn, olive, peanut and soybean:
These are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Use in moderate amounts in place of solid fats.

Seafood:
Include a variety of seafood more often in place of some meat and poultry.

For some deliciously healthy recipes, including one for gluten-free wild rice spring rolls, check out www.eatright.org.

Want to calculate how much calcium you get every day? Find out at www.bestbonesforever.org.

Photo credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/