They say March is the hardest month in Maine. Our winters drag on while other parts of the country welcome spring, and summer sunshine feels like a faraway dream.

I know many people who swear by tanning beds and Vitamin D supplements to beat the winter blues, but there’s an even more powerful tool right at our fingertips: Food.

March is National Nutrition Month, and now is the perfect time for individuals and families to reevaluate their eating habits to become healthier and happier.

Indeed, 39 percent of women and 33.8 percent of men in Androscoggin County are obese, while another 16 percent have been diagnosed with diabetes. The picture doesn’t look much better for our youth, 18 percent of whom are overweight or obese. And you better believe our physical health is tied to our mental health.

As a registered dietitian and personal trainer, I have helped dozens of people transform their bodies and minds through proper eating.

Newfound evidence has linked the benefits of diet to mental health, suggesting that what we eat plays an important contributing role in the development, management and prevention of specific mental health problems such as depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.


Nearly two-thirds of those who do not report daily mental health problems eat fresh fruit or fruit juice every day, compared with less than half of those who do. This pattern is similar for fresh vegetables and salad. Those who report some level of mental health problem also eat fewer healthy foods and more of what we consider unhealthy (chips, chocolate, ready-made meals and take-out, etc.).

Proper nutrition will set you up for success in other aspects of your life, as well.

How many people make New Year’s resolutions to get fit, only to struggle through February and all but give up by March? These exercise-based resolutions often fail because people don’t see results. And they don’t see results because they aren’t paying attention to what they’re putting into their bodies.

Eating well is also a great way to spend more time together as a family, because you will find yourself cooking more meals at home, using whole foods and fewer processed ingredients.

Asking kids to help in the kitchen teaches them valuable life skills while reinforcing healthy eating habits. Studies have shown that children who eat with their families at least five times a week are not only healthier, but they also are at lower risk for alcohol and drug abuse, and tend to perform better in school. What’s more, family meal time teaches children the art of conversation, good manners, serving others and compromise.

All of these benefits can occur when we put food and proper nutrition back at the center of our well-being.


But that is often easier said than done. Our lives are busier than ever, and eating on the go is more the rule than the exception. Making time for proper nutrition can feel like just another chore on the to-do list.

A few tips I tell my clients include planning ahead, reducing processed foods and being patient. Most poor food choices come from being under pressure or short on time. Planning ahead can help.

Also, moderating processed foods in favor of the fresh stuff allows you to maintain a healthy weight while decreasing your risk for potential diseases. (You best believe any processed food item will have added levels of unwanted fat and sodium.)

Now for patience: Nutrition is a lifelong process. Changing your diet and lifestyle is a matter of putting one foot in front of the other over a stretch of miles, not inches.

This month, I encourage everyone to take one action step toward better nutrition. Take stock of your pantry. Resolve to share a home-cooked family meal three times this week. Eat one more serving of fruits and vegetables today. Borrow — and read! — a book about nutrition from your local library.

The wonderful thing about nutrition is that our healthy choices add up. But we have to start somewhere.

Brady Goldschmidt is a consulting dietitian and personal trainer at the YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston and clinical dietitian at Central Maine Medical Center.

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