(StatePoint) Eating right is essential to keeping your body running at its best. But nutrition advice doesn't always account for people's varied lifestyles, health needs and tastes.
March, which is National Nutrition Month, is an excellent opportunity to review your diet and make positive, sustainable changes.
So what's the "right" way to eat for you? Experts say it's not as restrictive as you may think.
"There's sometimes a misperception that eating properly means giving up favorite foods," says registered dietitian and President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Ethan A. Bergman. "But including foods you love in your diet can help you stick to your goals."
As part of the "Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day" campaign, Bergman suggests that those looking to eat a healthy diet, tailor food choices to meet lifestyle, needs and preferences:
o Business People: Busy work days can lead to on-the-fly meals. For desktop dining, keep single-serve packages of crackers, fruit, peanut butter, low-sodium soup or canned tuna in your desk.
Always on the go? Tuck portable, nonperishable foods in your bag for meals on the run. Try granola bars, peanut butter and crackers, fresh fruit, trail mix or single-serve packages of whole-grain cereal or crackers.
o Athletes: Whether you're a competitive athlete or just enjoy working out, what you eat affects your performance. Eat a light meal or snack before exercising, such as low-fat yogurt, a banana or cereal with low-fat milk. Before, during and after exercise, drink plenty of water or a sports drink, if you prefer.
o Students: For nutritious, budget-friendly snacking, combine protein and carbohydrates, such as apples and peanut butter, low-fat cheese and whole-grain crackers or hardboiled eggs and fruit. These also double as quick grab-and-go breakfasts.
At the cafeteria, salad bars are a great choice -- just go easy on the high-calorie add-ons.
o Families: Family meals allow parents to be role models to ensure kids eat right. And, just because a meal is made quickly doesn't mean it can't be nutritious.
Keep things simple. Choose ingredients you can use for more than one meal. For example, cook extra grilled chicken for salad or fajitas the next day. Get the kids involved. They can make the salad, set the table or do other simple tasks.
o Vegetarians: A vegetarian diet can include just as much variety as one including meat. For example, nutrient-rich beans are a great choice. Enjoy vegetarian chili, a hummus-filled pita sandwich or veggie burger. Many popular items are or can be vegetarian -- pasta primavera, veggie pizza and tofu-vegetable stir-fry.
o Meat lovers: Keep your meaty meals heart-healthy by selecting lean cuts and choosing chicken, turkey and fish more often. Avoid deep fried foods. Instead, bake, broil, roast, stew or stir-fry your meals.
This month, set yourself up for success. Consider working with a registered dietitian to develop a personalized eating plan. More tips can be found at www.EatRight.org.
Remember, good nutrition isn't meant to make you suffer. With exercise and moderation, you can enjoy your favorite foods regularly.