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It’s easy to be tempted to jump on the bandwagon whenever the latest fad diet comes along. They always sound so interesting — and easy! But, in the long run, it’s really about establishing your own diet, a healthy diet that you can stick with. With March being National Nutrition Month, instead of following the next fad, why not focus on a more practical approach to diet and nutrition?

There’s no question that eating well is important for your health. Even little changes in your diet can lower the risk of developing certain diseases and help you control your weight. So, what are the keys to a practical approach to nutrition? Here are some tips:

Keep a food diary

Start your journey with a food diary (and be honest about it). Pay attention to what you’re eating over several days or a week. This is a great way to see what areas of your diet need improvement and what foods you should limit or eliminate.

Planning and shopping

It’s also important to set aside some time to plan your meals. Creating a meal plan for the week, and making a grocery list while you’re at it, will keep you focused on what foods you should eat and shop for. In the long run, it’s a great way to save time and money by eliminating those extra trips to the grocery store, as well as food that ends up getting wasted.

Fruits and vegetables

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, the goal remains at least five servings a day. Be sure to include dark green leafy vegetables, orange fruits and vegetables and cooked dry beans and peas. And don’t forget to include whole grain foods that are rich in fiber, including whole wheat bread, beans — and even cereal.

Preparation and portion sizes

How you prepare your food and how much you put on your plate are also important. Steaming, grilling and baking are great alternatives to frying food. Be realistic about serving sizes. Don’t feel you have to heap your plate full of food to satisfy your hunger. Eat slowly and mindfully, paying careful attention to hunger cues and feelings of fullness.

Hydration

Drinking enough water everyday can be a challenge. The common recommendation is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day — but everyone is different. If you’re very active, you’ll want to increase your water intake. The same is true on hot summer days. At the same time, take a close look at how much soda or other high-sugar drinks you’re consuming and whether you need to adjust or eliminate those beverages.

Snacking

There’s no doubt we all like a snack now and then. Just don’t go overboard when it comes to snacking. Try to emphasize buying and eating healthy snacks like nuts, yogurt, fruits and vegetables. If you love ice cream, don’t keep a gallon in your freezer. Make gong out for ice cream a once-in-a-while treat. You don’t want to deprive yourself of snacks, just be smart about it.

With spring just ahead, it’s a great time to take a good hard look at your relationship with food. Small changes, and a more practical approach to nutrition, can provide long-term benefits to your health and wellbeing. There’s no time like right now to get started.

Dr. Nicole Hiniker’s office is at Bellin Health Marinette.