By MSU Extension

OSCEOLA COUNTY — With March being National Nutrition Month, MSU Extension wants to help local residents begin or keep a healthy lifestyle through nutrition. Every week through the month, the Herald Review will publish a selection of tips recommended by MSU Extension health educators and nutritionists.

Foods aren't good or bad.

A healthy eating style is like a puzzle with many parts. Each part — or food — is different. Some foods may have more fat, sugar or salt, while others may have more vitamins or fiber. There is a place for all these foods. What makes a diet good or bad is how foods fit together. Balancing your choices is important.

Fit in a higher-fat food, like pepperoni pizza, at dinner by choosing lower-fat foods at other meals. And don't forget about moderation. If two pieces of pizza fill you up, you don't need a third.

Make healthy eating and physical activities fun!

Take advantage of physical activities you and your friends enjoy doing together and eat the foods you like. Be adventurous — try new sports, games and other activities as well as new foods. You'll grow stronger, play longer and look and feel better! Set realistic goals — don't try changing too much at once.

Enact Family Meal Time

Research shows that family meals promote healthier eating. Plan to eat as a family at least a few times each week. Set a regular mealtime. Turn off the TV, phones and other electronic devices to encourage mealtime talk. Get kids involved in meal planning and cooking and use this time to teach them about good nutrition.

Banish Brown Bag Boredom

Whether it’s a brown bag lunch for work or school, make it a healthy lunch packed with nutrition. Prevent brown bag boredom with easy-to-fix, healthy lunch ideas. Try whole-wheat couscous with chick peas, whole-wheat tortilla filled with chicken, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes, a baked potato topped with broccoli, low-fat cheese and salsa, or spinach salad with sliced pear, red onion and low-fat feta cheese.

Follow Food Safety Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly one in six Americans gets sick from food-borne disease each year. Reduce your chances of getting sick by practicing proper hand washing. Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from ready-to-eat foods like bread and vegetables. Use a food thermometer to make sure food is properly cooked. Refrigerate food quickly at a proper temperature to slow bacteria growth.

Shop Savvy

Looking for ways to keep food costs down? Make a menu for the week, two weeks or even a month, and then make your shopping list based on what you need to complete your meal. You can create your menu around store sales, available coupons and of course what you have at home. Think balance, make sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains as part of your menu so that you have the ingredients and aren’t scrambling at the last minute, which may make for poor food choices.

Less Processed, Less Salt

We get most of our sodium intake from processed foods, not from adding it from the salt shaker. What does this mean? Eat less bologna, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, deli meats, canned soups and sauces, salted snacks and prepared foods, etc. … and more fresh meat like salmon, pork loin, non-processed chicken, fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables, and unsalted snacks like whole grain crackers, pretzels and dry cereal. It’s important also to limit salt from the shaker, but that is only a small amount of where we usually get it from each day.