National Nutrition Month 2017: Put Your Best Fork Forward

nnm 2017 bestIn the world of nutrition it isn’t uncommon to be sent down the wrong path when it comes to food choices. “You can’t eat ice cream it has too much fat and sugar.”  “You can’t eat red meat its bad for your heart.” “You can’t have dessert every night if you want to lose weight.” You can’t. You can’t. You can’t.  I have been immersed in the world of nutrition for a relatively short period of time.  Only about 6 years. However, the Registered Dietitians I work with, whose total time in the field accumulate to well over 250 years always say something similar to the following: “unless you have a medical condition that prevents you from eating a certain food, there are no bad foods, only better choices.”

This philosophy is the spirit of National Nutrition Month 2017. Teaching individuals that all foods can fit into an overall healthy diet is an important concept that many fail to grasp because they have been led astray by those who are not experts in nutrition.  But I and many Registered Dietitians will assure people again and again that all foods can fit into an overall healthy diet.  However, I would be lying if I didn’t say that there are healthier options that can replace some of those foods that many traditionally see as “bad” and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t encourage that option.

“Put your best fork forward” is another way of saying “make healthier choices.” It’s not about never eating those “guilty pleasures” that we all enjoy once in a while.  The fact of the matter is that it’s unrealistic to never consume those foods that we enjoy, and have grown accustomed to eating.  However, we can make healthier choices. Putting your best fork forward comes in the form of increasing intakes of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, whole grains, and unprocessed foods, and decreasing intakes of refined and added sugars, saturated and trans fats, energy dense and nutrient void foods, and sodium to benefit our health overall or to combat specific medical conditions. By following this philosophy it is possible to enjoy the foods we enjoy, but do it in a healthier way.  Let me show you how.

Fat and Calories
Regular choice Better choice
7 oz. Ribeye steak

580 Calories, 44g fat, 20g saturated fat


7 oz. Sirloin steak

365 Calories, 12g fat, 4.5g sat fat


6 oz. French fries

535 Calories, 27g fat, 3.5g sat fat

6 oz. baked potato and 2 Tbls sour cream

215 Calories, 5g fat, 3g sat fat


1 cup super premium vanilla ice cream

460 Calories, 28g fat, 16g sat fat


1 cup slow churned ice cream

200 Calories, 7g fat, 4g sat fat


Total savings: 795 Calories, 75g fat, 28g sat fat



Regular choice Better choice
3 oz. Pretzels

1350mg sodium


3oz. lightly salted pretzels

680mg sodium


2 oz. Potato chips

340mg sodium

2 oz. Lightly salted potato chips:

170mg sodium


2 Tbls Lawry’s herb and garlic marinade added to chicken breast

840 mg sodium


1 tsp Mrs. Dash garlic and herb seasoning, 2 Tbls Mrs. Dash garlic and herb marinade, and 1/8 tsp seasoning salt

288 mg sodium

Total savings: 1392 mg sodium


The foods in the charts above remained very similar after small adjustments were made. However, making those small adjustments would be enough to decrease body weight, risk of heart disease, and hypertension if done on a consistent basis. This method of eating healthier can be applied to just about any food such as:

Super premium ice cream vs. slow churned ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Regular potato chips vs. baked potato chips.

Fried chicken vs grilled or baked chicken with breading.

Vegetables with butter vs vegetables with ½ the amount of butter.

3 oz. cake vs 2 oz. cake.

Coffee with cream and sugar vs coffee with cream or sugar.

As you can see, putting your best fork forward isn’t about removing the foods you love it’s about making healthier choices that fit into your overall lifestyle and eating pattern.


Lemon Chicken Recipe

Yield: 4 servings



  •  3 Tbls Olive oil
  •  4 chicken breasts, cubed
  •  3 lemons, juiced
  •  1 ½ C unsalted chicken broth
  •  1 Tbls lite soy sauce
  •  1 Tbls corn starch
  •   4 Tbls honey
  •   ¼ c green onion, diced


  1. Pour olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add chicken cubes and cook until browned. Turn chicken cubes every 2-3 minutes to avoid burning.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, add lemon juice, broth, soy sauce, cornstarch, and honey (zested lemon optional).
  4. Pour mixture over the chicken in the skillet and decrease heat to low.
  5. Cover the chicken and cook until the sauce thickens.
  6. Remove the lid and sprinkle chicken with onion.
  7. Serve Hot

Nutrition for above recipe (per serving):

239mg sodium, 2g sat fat

Nutrition if recipe used butter, regular soy sauce, and salted chicken broth (per serving):

540mg sodium, 6g sat fat

Blog contribution by Anthony Scornavacco Hines VA dietetic intern

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