Embracing diversity in National Nutrition Month


As National Nutrition Month progresses, Week 3 encourages us to embrace diversity in our diets, celebrate cultural foods and traditions, and explore culinary horizons beyond our comfort zones.

Variety extends beyond just the types of foods we eat; it also encompasses the forms in which we consume them. Whether fresh, frozen, canned, or dried, each form brings its own set of nutritional benefits. Fresh produce offers peak flavors and nutrients, while canned or frozen options provide convenience and year-round availability. Dried foods, such as beans and nuts, offer a longer shelf life without sacrificing nutritional value.

Cultural cuisine embodies the traditional foods and culinary practices passed down through generations within a particular culture or region. Reflecting historical, geographical, and socio-cultural influences, these cuisines offer a diverse array of flavors, ingredients, and cooking techniques. Exploring and embracing cultural cuisine not only adds excitement and variety to our meals but also offers numerous health benefits.

Many cultural cuisines emphasize whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and lean proteins. These ingredients are rich in essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, supporting overall health and well-being.

Traditional cultural dishes often feature a balanced combination of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats), providing sustained energy and promoting satiety. For example, Mediterranean cuisine typically includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, and healthy fats from olive oil and nuts, contributing to a balanced diet.

Cultures such as Indian, Middle Eastern, and East Asian place a strong emphasis on plant-based foods, associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers, as well as improved weight management and digestive health.

Sharing meals with family and friends is a fundamental aspect of many cultural traditions. Eating together promotes social connection, strengthens familial bonds, and fosters a sense of belonging and community, crucial for mental and emotional well-being. Engaging in cultural food traditions provides a sense of identity and cultural pride.

National Nutrition Month reminds us of the importance of variety and exploration in our eating habits. By incorporating foods from all food groups, including our favorite cultural dishes, and experimenting with diverse ingredients and cuisines, we nourish both our bodies and our souls. Let’s celebrate the richness of cultural diversity on our plates and in our lives.

Monica Nagele is the Montgomery County Extension Educator and County Extension Director, Health and Human Science. She is a registered dietitian. The Extension office is at 400 Parke Ave., Crawfordsville; 765-364-6363. She may be reached by email at