During National Nutrition Month, CNCA joins the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in encouraging everyone to include healthy foods from all food groups in their diet—and to eat them in the proper proportions. The USDA's MyPlate is a great tool to illustrate the components of balanced diet.
Here are a few tips to help you "Get Your Plate in Shape":
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. (Studies show that about 90% of us are not eating the recommended 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.)
- 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.
- Fat-free and low-fat milk 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, rice or almond 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.
If you’d like to find out how your plate compares to the MyPlate guidelines, you can track your food intake using the web-based SuperTracker. There are also many free mobile apps for your smart phone that can help you track and analyze your food intake.
Choose My Plate