Get Your Plate in Shape: National Nutrition Month
Larry D. Jones, MPH, Health Director
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) presents "Get Your Plate in Shape," this year's theme of National Nutrition Month®.
Each March, the Academy encourages Americans to return to the basics of healthy eating. This year's theme encourages consumers to ensure they are eating the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy each day.
National Nutrition Month provides an opportunity to remind us of the basics of healthy eating. By focusing this year's theme on the new MyPlate, we can make the simple changes to their daily eating plans that will benefit them for a lifetime.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate replaced MyPyramid as the government's primary food group symbol as an easy-to-understand visual cue to help people adopt healthy eating habits that follow with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. Dividing the plate into four sections: fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins, as well as a glass representing dairy products, it shows consumers how they can incorporate the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines into every meal.
Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green, red and orange varieties, as well as beans and peas. When buying canned vegetables, choose "reduced sodium" or "no salt added" whenever possible. Rinsing whole varieties like beans, corn and peas can also reduce sodium levels. Dried and frozen fruits and those canned in water or their own juice are good options when fresh varieties are not available. Make sure every meal and snack has at least one fruit or vegetable or both.
Make at least half your grains whole. Choose brown rice, barley and oats and other whole grains for your sides and ingredients. Switch to 100-percent whole-grain breads, cereals and crackers. Check the ingredients list on food packages to find foods that are made with whole grains.
Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk which have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but less fat and fewer calories. If you are lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk or a calcium-fortified soy beverage.
Vary your protein choices. Eat a variety of foods each week from the protein food group like seafood, nuts and beans, as well as lean meat, poultry and eggs. Eat more plant-based proteins such as nuts, beans, whole grains and whole soy foods like tofu and edamame. At least twice a week, make fish and seafood the protein on your plate. Keep meat and poultry portions lean and limit to three ounces per meal.
Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars. Drink water instead of sugary drinks like regular sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and sweetened teas and coffees. Choose 100-percent fruit juice. Compare sodium in foods and choose those with the least amount listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel. Season foods with spices or herbs instead of salt. Select lean cuts of meat or poultry and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. Use heart-healthy oils like olive, canola and sunflower oil in place of butter or shortening when cooking.
As part of this public education campaign, the Academy's National Nutrition Month website (www.eatright.org/nnm) includes helpful tips, fun games, promotional tools and nutrition education resources, all designed to spread the message of good nutrition around the "Get Your Plate in Shape" theme.*Information provided by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at www.eatright.org.