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'Get Your Plate in Shape' during National Nutrition Month
by Claire Kjeld
Before you eat your next meal, take a moment to look at the food on your plate. Do you have a few food groups on there? Is at least half of your plate full of fruits and vegetables?
If you’re like most Americans, your plate could use a little shaping up.
Whether or not you have some weight to lose, the majority of us could do a little better at improving the quality of our diet. There’s no better time to start than right now – March is National Nutrition Month, with the theme “Get Your Plate in Shape.”
In Pierce County, we are not only working to shape up our plates but to shape up our community. Fitting with National Nutrition Month, Pierce County community members are invited to participate in a community weight loss contest beginning March 16, titled Pierce County Matchup.
"Each year, National Nutrition Month provides us the opportunity to remind consumers of the basics of healthy eating,” said Sylvia Escott-Stump, registered dietitian and president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “By focusing this year's theme on the new MyPlate, we can help people make the simple changes to their daily eating plans that will benefit them for a lifetime."
To start shaping up your plate, use the new MyPlate as a guide. MyPlate replaced the outdated “Food Pyramid” as an easy-to-understand visual cue to healthy meals. By focusing on proper portion sizes, MyPlate encourages people to eat the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy each day.
Shaping up your plate can help you get in shape, too. For example, making half your plate fruits and vegetables helps to reduce the amount of higher-calorie items that tend to dominate our plates.
"MyPlate is a great tool for helping people be mindful of what foods they should be eating and how much should be on their plate,” Escott-Stump said. “Our 'Get Your Plate in Shape' theme takes it a step further by giving consumers ideas for creative ways to include the food groups, helping them think out of the box to make every meal both healthful and enjoyable.”
MyPlate offers these 10 tips on how to implement these dietary guidelines into your daily life:
1. Balance calories
Find out how many calories YOU need for a day as a first step in managing your weight. Go to www.ChooseMyPlate.gov to find your calorie level. Being physically active also helps you balance calories.
2. Enjoy your food, but eat less.
Take the time to fully enjoy your food as you eat it. Eating too fast or when your attention is elsewhere may lead to eating too many calories. Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues before, during, and after meals. Use them to recognize when to eat and when you’ve had enough.
3. Avoid oversized portions
Use a smaller plate, bowl, and glass. Portion out foods before you eat. When eating out, choose a smaller size option, share a dish, or take home part of your meal.
4. Foods to eat more often.
Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or 1% milk and dairy products. These foods have the nutrients you need for health—including potassium, calcium, vitamin D, and fiber. Make them the basis for meals and snacks.
5. Foods to eat less often.
Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt. They include cakes, cookies, ice cream, candies, sweetened drinks, pizza, and fatty meats like ribs, sausages, bacon, and hot dogs. Use these foods as occasional treats, not everyday foods.
6. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
Choose red, orange, and dark-green vegetables like tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and broccoli, along with other vegetables for your meals. Add fruit to meals as part of main or side dishes or as dessert.
7. Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
They have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but fewer calories and less saturated fat.
8. Make half your grains whole grains.
To eat more whole grains, substitute a whole-grain product for a refined product—such as eating whole-wheat bread instead of white bread or brown rice instead of white rice.
9. Compare sodium in foods.
Use the Nutrition Facts label to choose lower sodium versions of foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals. Select canned foods labeled “low sodium,” ”reduced sodium,” or “no salt added.”
10. Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
Cut calories by drinking water or unsweetened beverages. Soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks are a major source of added sugar, and calories, in American diets.
Claire Kjeld is a Wellness Dietitian with the MultiCare Center for Healthy Living. For more information, visit http://www.multicare.org/home/center-healthy-living.