Put Your Best Fork Forward

When I was in elementary school, Choose Your Own Adventure books were all the rage; they presented an opportunity for escapism and freedom at its childhood finest. The reader, as the hero, decided how to progress the story, though desired consequence didn’t always result. I often found myself at a dead end, literally and figuratively, and would back-up to start again and follow a new path.

This is not unlike our own journey to health and wellness. We live in a society where many good choices abound. There are many paths to take, and there isn’t necessarily a perfect choice, but instead, many good choices.

We may find that we’ve take a path that sounded great when we made our choice, but we’re not enjoying now. It could have been a great fit in the beginning, but isn’t working in your life any more. At this point, just as in the Choose Your Own Adventure books, it’s permissible to back-up, and start over somewhere new.

In fact, that is normal and wise.

March is National Nutrition Month, recognized widely by health and nutrition professionals as a time to help people focus on what really matters most when it comes to nutritional health.

“Putting your best fork forward,” the theme for this year’s campaign, entails:

  • Creating an eating style that includes a variety of your favorite, healthful foods.
  • Practicing cooking more at home and experimenting with healthier ingredients.
  • Becoming more mindful to determine how much you should be eating by honoring your own hunger and fullness cues, as well as honoring and enjoying your food choices.
  • Finding activities that you enjoy and choosing to be physically active most days of the week.

Is the path you’ve chosen leading to a healthy life tomorrow? Ten years from now?

What one thing could you change today, about how you eat or engage in physical activity, that would make the biggest impact in your wellness destination?

If the “one thing” you think of is too monumental a task to take on, or doesn’t seem worth it to you, what one small diversion could you take toward better health? Here are some suggestions related to the goals above:

  • Try a new recipe each week, or once per month, to increase variety and practice cooking. A few of my personal favorite websites for delicious, healthy recipes can be found at,,, and
  • Add a new food to your shopping cart once in awhile; perhaps a new or long forgotten vegetable, whole grain, fruit, nut, bean, or fish.
  • Invite a friend or family member to share a home cooked meal. People generally eat better when they eat home cooked meals with others, and there are many social and psychological benefits to communal eating.
  • Experiment with having easy, healthy ingredients on hand to help you simplify cooking. For example, pre-ground white whole wheat flour can be added to baked goods to make any recipe more nutrient-rich.
  • Begin paying attention to what emotions motivate you to eat, unrelated to physical hunger.
  • Try rating your level of hunger and fullness before and after eating. What can you learn about your eating habits and state of mindfulness?
  • Consider re-visiting a physical activity you don’t do as much anymore that you once enjoyed. Begin with baby steps (sometimes, literally), to work towards being fit enough to enjoy it again without injury.
  • If you’re hard pressed to think of a physical activity that sounds enticing, think of environmental things that could improve the experience. Do you enjoy being outside in beautiful places? Utah is a wonderland in warm and cold weather; hiking, biking, walking on community trails, snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, even sledding and shoveling the walk can be great exercise. Maybe great scenery isn’t enough to incentivize you, but a good friend or family member partner is. Could a walk with friends, or a visit to the gym to lift weights with a brother be a motivator?

Sometimes it seems that people are tentative to try something new in fear of failure, but remember that failure is often evidence of effort, not lack of effort. If you never try, you never improve—and even worse, we often regress.

When choosing your own health adventure today and tomorrow, enjoy the journey, and don’t be afraid to back-up a few pages and adjust course until you find something that works for you.

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Written by Erica Hansen MS, RD, CD

Erica Hansen is a registered dietitian who owns the nutrition consulting company, Foods That Fit. She specializes in working with individuals and organizations to make their health and lifestyle goals fit into real life. She believes that getting back to the basics—preparing good, wholesome foods at home—is the first step to improving health.