March is National Nutrition Month in the U.S., which is sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and supported by many organizations. During this month, you can do several small things to make sure you’re eating the foods that your body needs for active senior living. Here are some ideas:

Keep a food journal

Oftentimes, we don’t realize how much or little we eat each day. Even if you just want to try it for a week, keep track of everything you eat each day, including calories, sodium and fat content, or whatever else you’d like to monitor, such as fiber intake. Write down the time you eat each thing, and if you’d like, how you’re feeling when you eat it. Sometimes people eat because they are nervous or bored and not always because they are hungry. Even one week of a food journal can show you trends in your eating practices.

Take the quiz

Take the “Rate Your Plate” quiz for National Nutrition Month! This generalized quiz can help you determine how you’re doing health-wise. Questions include, “Do you eat at least 2 cups of fruit daily?” and “Do you vary protein with more fish, beans and nuts?” Possible responses include, “Most days,” “Sometimes” or “Never.” Add up your points at the end to see if you could be doing a bit better, nutrition-wise.

Focus on foods for hearing health

If you have hearing loss or want to prevent hearing loss, try to add more foods to your diet that are good for hearing health. These include:

  • Almonds, cashews and peanuts: All are high in magnesium, which has been shown to have a protective effect on hearing health.
  • Red bell peppers: They are high in vitamins C, E and A, which strengthen the immune system, which can reduce the risk of ear infections.
  • Salmon, sardines and trout: All have omega-3 fatty acids in high quantities, which is important for reducing inflammation, improving heart health and strengthening and protecting the tiny blood vessels in the ears.

Make simple substitutions

One good tactic if you’d like to improve your diet is to just make one small change per week. According to Dr. Lesley Lutes, an assistant professor of psychology at East Carolina University, smaller changes are more likely to be successful:

“When you focus on just a couple of small changes at a time, you begin to ingrain some healthy habits that last for a lifetime, rather than trying an all-or-nothing approach that more often than not fails because it’s too hard to follow,” Lutes said in a recent Prevention article.

Here are a few easy substitutions that, undertaken one at a time, can get you on the track to better health:

  • Rather than fatty cream or – even worse – artificial creamers that have added chemicals, opt instead for low-fat milk in your coffee.
  • Instead of an unhealthy fat like mayonnaise on your sandwich, swap it out with a healthy fat like avocado, which is full of heart-healthy and hearing-healthy omega-3s.
  • When cooking, try to use less salt and more flavorful spices.
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