Get Your Plate in Shape for Nat’l Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month and the theme for 2012 is “Get Your Plate in Shape.”  This year’s theme focuses on encouraging everyone to apply the dietary guidelines illustrated by “MyPlate” to their meals.

Steps to getting your plate in shape according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the MyPlate guidelines.

“Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.”
When plating up your breakfast, lunch and dinner half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables.  I think it should say “vegetables and fruits” because ideally your vegetable intake should be higher than your fruit.  Most individuals should be aiming for 4-5 servings of vegetables.  One serving is 1 full cup of raw or 1/2 cup of cooked veggies.  Fruit consumption for most should be 2 to 3 servings a day, a serving being 1 small piece of fruit, 1/2 a banana, or 1 cup berries/grapes/etc.

Make at least half of your grains whole.
When choosing breads, cereal, pasta, and other grains try to choose whole grain.  When looking at the labels make sure the first ingredient is “whole wheat” or “whole grain”.  Try other grains besides wheat such as quinoa, barley, amaranth, and brown rice.  The grain or starch portion of your plate should take up 1/4 of the plate. 

Vary your protein choices.
Limit high fat proteins like bacon, sausage, and high fat beef.  Choose lean meats like chicken, turkey, pork and lean beef. Don’t forget about seafood, eggs, beans, and other vegetarian proteins such as tofu.  The last 1/4 of your plate should be protein.

Switch to fat-free and low-fat milk/dairy.
Choose fat-free or low-fat milk and cheese, and low-fat yogurt.  I personally don’t recommend most fat-free yogurt (except for the Greek yogurts) because most replace fat with artificial sweeteners and are just not very tasty anyway.  You might also want to try dairy alternatives such as soy, almond and coconut milk products.

Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars.
Avoid excess sodium by limiting your intake of processed and packaged foods.  Always try to choose whole foods versus processed foods.  A trick is to look at the ingredient label, if you can identify all the ingredients then its probably a decent choice.  If you can’t identify the majority of the ingredients, do you really want to eat it?

Enjoy your food, but eat less.
Everyone likes a treat or splurge once in a while, or maybe even a small treat everyday.  Just remember to have it in moderation.  Maybe if you’re out to dinner and really want dessert, share it with your dinner date or save half for later.

Overall to get your plate in shape…

  • Make 1/2 vegetables and/or fruit
  • Make 1/4 starch or grain
  • Make 1/4 protein
  • Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy and dairy alternatives
  • Avoid processed/packaged foods when you can
  • Keep portions in control
  • Enjoy your food! 🙂

Happy National Nutrition Month!