March is National Nutrition Month

Yes, you CAN eat that

From the vinegar and water diet in the 1820s to the grapefruit diet to modern-day twists that tell you to shun carbs and pack on the protein, there's a fad out there to suit virtually any preference.

What they all have in common: The "secret to success" that they tout usually doesn't have anything to do with whether you lose weight. One famous diet plan in the 1930s even promised people that they'd lose weight if they would quit eating different food groups in the same meal.

The simple truth: If you start watching what you eat, you'll lose weight. Even the vinegar and water diet required followers to eat moderate portions, watch the nutritional composition of their foods, and exercise.

It's easier said than done, though, especially if you're surrounded by homemade cookies at the office and vending machines heavy on chips and light on veggies. If you keep in mind these simple principles, though, the occasional slip won't matter:

Let color be your guide: If you focus on eating a rainbow of colors, you'll ensure that you're getting a variety of healthful nutrients. There's green in apples, avocados and asparagus, orange in apricots, citrus and carrots, purple or blue in berries and egg-plant, red in cherries or beets and white, tan or brown in pears, dates and cauliflowers.

Stay right-sized: Most of us are horribly inaccurate when it comes to gauging what a "portion" is, and that can lead to overeating. Three ounces of meat is about the size of a deck of cards, while a single pancake should be only about the size of a compact disk. Even "individual" packs of chips in reality contain close to two servings. Learn other visual tricks at Websites such as this one so you can avoid overeating.

Follow the Pyramid scheme: There's a reason vegetables, grains and fruits make up more than half of the government's food pyramid and oils are but a sliver. It's because we need to eat more of the former and less of the latter. Use the pyramid as your guide, and you'll be on your way to healthier eating. Find out more at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Website.

Get moving: Eating right is only half the equation. Getting enough exercise – at least 150 minutes a week – is the other. Exercise need not be a drudge, though. Sometimes it can be as simple as parking farther away and walking briskly through the parking lot or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Forgive yourself: Allow yourself the occasional splurge on cheesecake or a burger and fries. As long as those foods aren't your regular diet and unless your doctor has banned one of them, you'll be fine.

Exercise for those who don't like exercise

You don't have to run a marathon to stay in shape. All you need to do is find 150 minutes a week – and if you do it only a few minutes at a time, that's fine.

That's what the Centers for Disease Control says about what adults need to do to stay fit. Used to be, people thought of staying in shape as going on a long run. Nowadays, though, experts believe that if you're getting in as few as 10 minutes at a time you're all right as long as it adds up to 150.

Having trouble finding 30 minutes for a walk? Break it down to a couple of times around the block before work, during lunch and after work. You'll find that your fitness breaks also will help you avoid an afternoon slump and let you unwind before heading home.

Flash back – or flash dance – to your younger days. Pump up the jam and boogie oogie oogie 'til you break a sweat. It's a fun way to stay fit.

Walk the kids to school. Clock out of the carpool for good – it's good for the environment and good for your health. You'll teach your kids healthy habits while you're doing it.

Use that bicycle or treadmill. If you know the news is going to raise your blood pressure anyway, take advantage of that by moving the stack of clothes off the exercise gear. It's easy to pass the time while you watch CNN, Sports Center or The View. Bribe yourself with a half hour in front of a favorite cheesy sitcom or guilty viewing pleasure.

Take over the gaming system. If you've already invested in the gaming system because the kids are into it, there are a variety of exercise programs that will let you work up a sweat. Some, such as Just Dance!, are fun and friendly competition for the whole family. You can impress your kids with your disco rolls as they look on in amazement.

Get a dog. Studies have found that dog owners get as twice as much exercise as those without pets. That sad puppy face gazing up at you will help you keep your resolve when you're tempted to blow off your daily walk.

Skip the chips

It's sometimes hard to stay on the nutritional straight and narrow in a go-go world full of vending machines. There are healthy and portable ways to ward off hunger, though. They require a bit of planning, but beyond that it's fairly easy to keep a variety of nutritious foods at hand for when the munchies flair.

Nuts: Whether you buy a can for the office or individual packages for the car, this protein-rich treat will give you an energy boost that lasts far longer than a sugary treat.

Dried fruit: There's much more available than raisins these days. From cranberries to cherries to banana chips and more, dried fruits often are rich in nutrients. Be careful, though, that the kind you buy isn't coated with sugar.

Breakfast cereal: This crunch treat isn't just for mornings. Pick a version that's high on whole grain and low on sugar for an any-time treat.

Beef jerky: Another snack with a big protein wallop, but you need to watch the salt content. Look for alternatives to brands that often have excess sodium.

Tuna: Individual-size servings in a variety of flavors are readily available now. Add whole-grain crackers for another protein-rich treat.

Trail mix. This is the perfect storm of crunch, protein and vitamins. Avoid brands that include candy or, better yet, mix up your own and pack it into small containers for munching on the go.

Granola bars: Look for a high-fiber, low-sugar variety.

Food poisoning or a virus?

Your stomach is cramping and you can't keep anything down. But is the culprit something you ate or a bug you picked up?

It can be hard to tell, because nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are common with both food poisoning and stomach viruses. A fever can be present in either case as well, though it's more common with a stomach bug.

Treatment for both are similar, too: Bland diets when you're able, and plenty of fluids to replace those you're losing. Even if you vomit soon after you drink, keep trying. Every little bit helps to ward off dehydration.

Doctors can run tests that will determine what you have – if it's food poisoning, they might need to then alert authorities so they can track any potential widespread outbreak. If the vomiting and diarrhea are severe and last longer than a day, you can be given medication to stop the nausea. Call or stop by your nearest Doctors Care center for help. Link to locations page

If you show signs of severe dehydration – sunken eyes, extreme sleepiness, dry mouth and tongue, fast breathing, a rapid heartbeat, and not urinating for more than 12 hours – call 911. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency.

Vitamins: Avoid too much of a good thing

If you don't eat a variety of healthful foods, supplements can help. You need to be careful, though, to make sure that you're not getting more than you need.

Scientific evidence shows that some supplements sometimes are needed. For example:
Calcium and Vitamin D can help keep bones strong if you're not drinking enough milk, eating green leafy vegetables or beans and, in the case of Vitamin D, getting out in the sunshine. A majority of Americans are low on Vitamin D because of increased sunscreen use. At Doctors Care, we can check your Vitamin D level to see if you need more.
Folic acid, which occurs naturally in green vegetables, citrus, bananas and chicken liver, decreases the risk of certain birth defects, and doctors recommend it for all women trying to get pregnant.
Omega-3 fatty acid supplements might help some people with heart disease if they're not eating fish twice a week.
Iron helps prevent anemia and is found naturally in meat, poultry, fish, legumes and whole grains. Men and postmenopausal women, though, don't need as much iron.
Many vitamins and minerals – folic acid and iron, for example – are added to a growing number of foods today. That could mean that you're already getting more nutrients than you think you are, and too much of a good thing can cause problems. Excess Vitamin A, for example, can cause headaches and liver damage. Too much iron can cause nausea and might damage organs.
Other vitamins can conflict with prescription medication and do more harm than good.
Also keep in mind that, unlike prescription or over-the-counter medications, supplements don't have to go through the stringent Food and Drug Administration approval process. Supplement manufacturers are allowed to make certain types of health-related claims, but that doesn't mean objective research has proven them to be true.

The best approach is to work with your doctor to figure out what's best for you. That way you can discuss what supplements, if any, might help you and which ones you should not take. Never combine supplements and prescription medication without your doctor's approval.

More information:
The National Institutes of Health Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet