To reduce the burden of diet-related disease, the United Nations General Assembly has declared 2016-2025 as the Decade of Nutrition Action, calling upon the World Health Organization and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to spearhead the campaign. This resolution provides an opportunity for both governments and various nongovernmental organizations to work together to tackle hunger, obesity, and everything in between.
Luckily, everybody eats. This means that rather than waiting for the experts to sort things out, we can start making tweaks in our own diets and within our community to help make the food environment healthier for everyone.
Here are ﬁve ways you can start now, to make a diﬀerence during the decade of nutrition action:
1. Reclaim Your Kitchen. For better health, cook more nutritious meals at home , rather than leaving the job to manufacturers and fast food restaurants. Start with just one new recipe per week, like a bean chili or a vegetable pasta dish, and shift your shopping towards whole food ingredients, direct from nature. Not only are staples like dried beans, brown rice, and fresh cabbage extremely nutritious, they are also quite aﬀordable. Learning how to create balanced meals from inexpensive, healthy foods makes eating well more accessible to those who need it most. If you’re new to shopping and cooking, our Oldways Cart (which includes a shopping list and a week’s worth of recipes) is the perfect place to start.
2. Create Demand for Healthier Options. Beyond eating well at home, be a force for positive change when dining out. At restaurants, opt for better-for-you options, like brown rice sushi, grilled chicken or tofu quinoa bowls, or a leafy green salad topped with shavings of traditionally produced, artisan cheese. You’ll inspire family members, friends, and other dining companions, and also help increase the demand for more nutritious options at restaurants. After all, restaurant menus are completely dependent upon consumer demand. If it doesn’t sell, it doesn’t stay on the menu.
3. Make Good Nutrition the New Norm. Be a friendly “nudge” wherever you go. At work, ask your employer about employee wellness programs and incorporating health into company culture. At the grocery store, seek the advice of a supermarket dietitian. And at hospitals, engage your practitioner in a discussion about lifestyle choices. Similarly, if you’re a healthcare professional or hospital foodservice director who would like to challenge the status quo, make use of our free and low cost resources for your patients, such as our “Fresh Fridays” Mediterranean diet email newsletter, our 4-Week Vegetarian or Mediterranean Diet menu plan books, and our extensive recipe collection.
4. Give Back to Your Own Community. At the heart of it, the Decade of Nutrition Action is a chance to think larger than just your own personal journey to health. It is a chance to build partnerships and create lasting change, with the shared goal of eliminating malnutrition. Oldways oﬀers a number of resources to help you be a leader in your own community. Our 6-week nutrition and cooking program, A Taste of African Heritage, has been taught in over 100 communities across the country, by volunteers just like you (sign up to teach here). A similar Latin American heritage healthy cooking program is in the works. Other Oldways resources, including our store tours, recipes, and menu plans, have also served as the backbone of many community health programs.
5. Write to your legislators. Throughout the Decade of Nutrition Action, the UN is encouraging governments to exercise their role and responsibility in preventing diet related disease. Writing or calling your senators and representatives is one of the best ways to exercise your civic duty and create demand for stronger nutrition legislation. From upholding the strong school nutrition guidelines of the 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, to making healthy foods more accessible to underserved communities, it is essential to let your representatives know which nutrition issues they need to take action on.
As nutrition moves from marketing buzzword to policy priority, we hope that the next ten years will usher in a new standard of global health and nourishment. How will you step up throughout the Decade of Nutrition Action?
Kelly Toups, RD