MGH Charlestown Health Care Center Posts ‘Beyond the Table Campaign’

By Maria A Perez RDN, LDN

March is here and it is a great opportunity for you to think about the impact of food choices beyond the table. As an older adult, the importance of informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits are essential.

No matter what age you are, nourishing yourself is always important. This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month, Beyond the Table, encourages you to think about our health and the environment while making daily food choices. What we eat and drink can make a big difference.

Let’s discuss how we can do this!

6 ways to incorporate “Beyond the Table” theme in your home:

1.         Work on a backyard garden. Use this to experiment with Plant-Based Meals.

You can keep this as simple or ambitious as you like. Quickly create small gardens by choosing a container and packing it with your favorite blooms or tackle a larger project such as redesigning your backyard and opening space for a vegetable garden. Gardening is one of the healthiest hobbies you can develop— for yourself and the planet! Research shows that working the soil improves land and air quality; it is also classified as exercise by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). Expand your menus with budget friendly meatless dishes or by eating fresh produce from your backyard. Some ideas are bean-based recipes or lentil dishes seasoned with leaves, spices or herbs which you can grow at home. Grains are great sources of protein too!

2.         Keep hydrated and swap sugary beverages for water.

By choosing water or zero calorie drinks like tea and coffee, you can avoid many health problems associated with high blood sugars. Avoiding soda, which comes in cans or plastic bottles, reduces the waste produced by these products. Instead of buying highly sugary juices and soda, try investing in a reusable water bottle. The benefits are incredible! Fewer pollutants and harmful chemicals will enter the ground and atmosphere, and you will save money and energy for more important needs. Be very mindful about what you drink, especially if you are active or live/work in hot conditions.

3.         Get to know Food Labels.

This will help promote healthy food choices when grocery shopping. Buying in-season produce is not only more nutritious and delicious, but also more sustainable for the environment and economy. Choose more foods that don’t have food labels (ie. whole foods such as fruits or vegetables); but if you do choose packaged foods, make sure you recognize the ingredients listed. 

4.         Protect Family Mealtimes. Set a regular mealtime, turn off the TV, and phones to encourage mealtime talk.

Generally, when you eat as a family you are cooking at home and relaxing around your dining table. Family style meals also tend to be higher in fruits and vegetables. Get kids involved in meal planning and cooking. Use this time to teach good nutrition!

5.         Eat seafood twice a week: Seafood – fish and shellfish – contains a range of nutrients including healthy omega-3 fats. Salmon, trout, oysters and sardines are higher in omega-3s and lower in mercury. We all know that seafood has unquestionable benefits but in recent reports there is more and more evidence that eating sustainable seafood can help support a thriving environment and make a great positive impact on public health. Seafood has one of the lowest negative environmental impacts of all the animal protein markets. Other types of seafood like oysters, clams, mussels, and seaweed can be harvested without negative effects in their ecosystems and habitats.

6.         Explore new foods and flavors: You can add more nutrients when you expand your palate with new options and choices. Next time you are at a store, select a fruit, vegetable, or whole grain that you have not tried yet. This will increase the demand for different foods and promote a more diversified farming system. Smart nutrition tip: use a variety of fruits and vegetables, especially those that are colorful, dark green, red, and orange for more nutrients. (Beans, peas, and lentils are also a good choice!) If you choose to buy canned or frozen vegetables make sure you choose “low salt” or “no salt” options.

Try putting these tips into practice, and you will see that eating with the environment and your health in mind is EASY and FUN. It can help keep food costs down and increase nutrient density in your diet.

To find out more about this year Beyond the table Campaign visit: National Nutrition Month® Resources (

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