Although healthy eating is important year-round, National Nutrition Month, which is celebrated in March, provides an opportunity to focus on the importance of good nutrition and the basics of healthy eating. The 2012 theme of National Nutrition Month is “Get Your Plate in Shape”, and emphasizes messages from the USDA’s newly released MyPlate (www.choosemyplate.gov) which replaced the Food Pyramid and is designed to help Americans adopt healthy eating habits consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. So to help you get your plate in shape during National Nutrition Month and beyond, follow these tips:
1) Make half your plate fruits and vegetables: Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, including fresh, frozen or canned. When choosing canned vegetables, buy those labeled “reduced sodium” or “no-salt-added”. When buying canned fruit, choose those in water or 100% fruit juice.
2) Make at least half your grains whole: Choose 100% whole-grain breads, cereals, crackers, pasta and brown rice. Check the ingredients list on food packages to find whole-grain foods.
3) 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 calories. If you are lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk or a calcium-fortified soy beverage.
4) Vary your protein choices: Eat a variety of foods from the protein food group each week, such as seafood, nuts and beans, as well as lean meat, poultry and eggs. Twice a week, make seafood the protein on your plate. Keep meat and poultry portions small and lean.
5) Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars: Drink water instead of empty calorie drinks such as soda or fruit drinks. Try choosing fruit for dessert and eat sugary desserts less often. Choose 100% fruit juice instead of fruit-flavored drinks. Look out for salt (sodium) in foods you buy. Compare sodium in foods and choose those with lower numbers. Add spices or herbs to season food without adding salt. Make major sources of saturated fats such as desserts, pizza, cheese, sausages and hot dogs occasional choices, not every day foods. Select lean cuts of meat or poultry and fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese. Switch from solid fats to oils when preparing food.
6) Enjoy your food but eat less: Get your personal daily calorie limit at www.ChooseMyPlate.gov. Keep that number in mind when deciding what to eat. Avoid oversized portions. Use a smaller plate, bowl and glass. Cook more often at home, where you are in control of what’s in your food. When eating out, choose lower calorie menu options. Choose dishes that include vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Write down what you eat to keep track of how much you eat. If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so sensibly. Limit to 1 drink a day for women or to 2 drinks a day for men.
7) Be physically active your way: Pick activities that you like and start by doing what you can, at least 10 minutes at a time. Every bit adds up and health benefits increase as you spend more time being active. Children and teens should be active for 60 minutes or more each day and adults should get 2 hours and 30 minutes or more a week of activity that requires moderate effort such as brisk walking.
Source: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: www.eatright.org.
For a delicious recipe that can help you implement these tips, try Asian Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry.