During the month of March, members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics are encouraging Americans to “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right” by taking time to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the pleasures, great flavors and social experiences food can add to your life.  For African Americans, however, savoring the wrong types of foods has caused or exacerbated a host of chronic illnesses, including hypertension and diabetes.  Eating right, often means understanding the difference between what the body needs to function, and what the body craves.

“Food nourishes your body and provides necessary fuel to help you thrive and fight disease,” registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokeswoman Kristen Gradney told the AFRO. “Food is also a source of pleasure and enjoyment. Savor the flavor of eating right by taking time to enjoy healthy foods and all the happiness they bring to your life.”

Most Americans eat too fast and, as a result, take in too many calories before realizing they’ve eaten enough.  It takes approximately 20 minutes from the time eating begins before the brain signals fullness. Leisurely eating allows ample time to trigger the signal from your brain that the stomach is full. Slowing the pace of consumption is shown to reduce caloric intake.

“Eat one bite at a time, and focus on the different flavors and textures,” Gradney said. “Stop and take time between bites. Eating slowly not only allows you to enjoy your food, but it can also help you eat less by giving your stomach time to tell your brain that you are full.”

Being a mindful eater can help reset both the body and mind and lead to an overall healthier lifestyle, she added.

“Think about where you eat the majority of your meals.  Many eat lunch at their desks or dinner in front of the television. Take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to find a nice place to mindfully eat instead of multitasking through your meals,” Gradney said.

Also of concern are the numbers of African Americans who snack frequently, and skip breakfast and dinner — meals that contain nutrients crucial to maintaining proper health.  Especially among children and young adults, missing meals, snacking, and eating fast food have negatively impacted development and lead to school absenteeism and poor sleeping habits.

Research from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shows 17.9 percent of Black children eat at fast food or sit-down restaurants three times a week (as compared to Caucasian children at 9.3 percent and Hispanic children at 13.2 percent).  Additionally, less than half of the African-American children reported eating breakfast each morning before school. 

Health experts recommend following the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines to try consuming less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars. Choosing foods and beverages with no added sugar whenever possible is a good start according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“During National Nutrition Month and beyond, make an effort to cut back on food and beverages high in added sugar, sodium and saturated fats,” said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy spokeswoman Lisa Cimperman. “Take the time to find creative, healthful and nutritious ways to add flavor to food.”

Cimperman also recommended reading food labels and avoiding foods with added sugars like high fructose corn syrup, dried cane syrup, evaporated cane juice, invert sugar, molasses, sucrose, brown rice syrup, honey, agave or maple syrup, and increasing water intake.