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Advice for healthy eating during National Nutrition Month

Each March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages American’s to return to the basics of healthful eating. This year’s theme, Savor the Flavor of Eating Right, reminds us to appreciate the pleasures, great flavors and social experiences that food can add to our lives. The theme coincides with the newly released 2015 Dietary Guidelines which also acknowledges the cultural and personal connections people bring to their diets and lifestyle.

There’s no one diet that is right for everyone, so it’s important to keep your unique lifestyle in mind when choosing a healthful eating plan.  If you are lost on where to start with building a balanced diet, look to the Dietary Guidelines which actually encourage three different eating styles that can improve overall good health and add flavor to your plate.

First is the Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern.  Many assume that all vegetarian diets are balanced and healthy. Unfortunately, a meat-free approach doesn’t guarantee a plate full of fruits and vegetables and plant based proteins. The healthy vegetarian eating pattern emphasizes an abundance of fruits and vegetables along with beans, nuts, and seeds as significant sources of protein.  Additionally, it recommends three servings of low-fat or fat free milk, cheese and yogurt daily.  Dairy foods are an important part of a vegetarian diet, because unlike most plant-based protein sources, dairy offers a complete protein, providing a full mix of the essential amino acids our bodies need for muscle building and repair.

If a strict plant-based diet doesn’t fit into your lifestyle then you may want to try the Healthy US Eating Pattern. Unlike the vegetarian eating pattern, this one does allow lean protein such as chicken and lean cuts of pork and beef. While lean meats are allowed in the traditional American diet, they should be treated as a side dish leaving plenty of room on the plate for other nutritious foods. You can create a great plate when half your plate is fruits and vegetables, ¼ lean proteins, ¼ whole grains and add a serving of dairy.

Hearing these recommendations is one thing, but Americans need to put them into action. Did you know that 75 percent of Americans are not consuming enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy foods? In fact, the Dietary Guidelines noted four nutrients of concern for Americans: calcium, potassium, vitamin D and fiber.  If we filled our plates with more fruits, vegetables, dairy, lean protein and whole grains, we could close the gap on those nutrients and instantly improve our individual and collective health potential. It is important to remember that dairy, contains three of these four nutrients — calcium, potassium and vitamin D.

This March, celebrate good health by eating right. Research shows that a balanced and healthy eating pattern is associated with positive health outcomes such as reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer and obesity. No excuses, it’s time to pick a style that you prefer and start eating right, right away.

Milk-Braised Pork Loin

Ingredients:• 1 boneless pork loin (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)

• Kosher salt and black pepper

• 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided,

• 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 1/2 c. shallots, thinly sliced

• 2 tbsp. chopped fresh sage

• 1/2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme

• 2 tbsp. lemon zest (zest of 2 medium lemons)

• 1 tbsp. orange zest

• 1 tbsp. minced garlic

• 1/8 tsp. freshly-ground nutmeg

• 2 c. whole milk

• 2 c. heavy cream

• Several whole thyme and sage sprigs (added to pot and for garnish)

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°.

Let pork loin come up to room temperature for about an hour. Season pork liberally on all sides with kosher salt and black pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pot, like a cast iron Dutch or French oven, that is it just large enough to fit pork. Add pork and sear on all sides, 10-12 minutes. Remove pork from pot and set aside on plate.

Place remaining 2 tablespoons butter in pot and melt over medium heat. Add shallots, cooking until just translucent. Add herbs, garlic, citrus zest and nutmeg and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add milk and cream, stirring to combine all ingredients. Return pork to pot, along with any accumulated juices and whole springs of thyme and sage, bring up to a slow simmer. Cover pot and place in preheated oven. Cook 2 hours, turning it half way through cooking. Uncover and cook an additional 30 minutes.

Transfer pork to a carving board and let rest at least 15 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the larger curds if any from the sauce and discard any herb stems. Place pot back on the stove over medium heat; bring to a simmer. Cook 12 to 15 minutes until reduced by half, stirring frequently so milk doesn’t scorch. Cut pork into 1/2-inch-thick slices and arrange on deep serving platter. Ladle milk gravy over pork and garnish with any remaining fresh thyme, sage and zest.

Rebecca Turner, MS, RD, CSSD a registered dietitian with the Southeast Dairy Association. Get more healthful information at www.southeastdairy.org