National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. This year’s campaign “Get Your Plate In Shape” uses the latest dietary guidelines, released in January 2011, called “MyPlate”.
MyPlate is exactly that, a visual of what your plate should look like when you sit down to eat a healthy meal. MyPlate, your dinner plate, is divided into four sections. The veggie and grain sections are each a little larger than a fourth of the plate. While the fruits and protein sections are each a little smaller than a quarter of the plate. Off to the side is a smaller circle representing dairy, with three meals per day that would include three servings of dairy. This could include a glass of low-fat milk, low-fat cheese, or low-fat yogurt to obtain your daily calcium and vitamin D.
“Get Your Plate in Shape” is all about balancing calories with physical activity and consuming an overall healthy eating pattern. It is suggested to eat more low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods, which means to make sure you are eating you fruits, vegetables, and whole grains on a daily basis. Fruits and vegetables are naturally cholesterol free, low in fat, low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Research has shown that we eat with our eyes, and fruits and veggies add a lot of color to a plate which is pleasing to our eyes. These different colors are very important, for example the red provides lycopene which is important for healthy cells. Green fruits and veggies provide vitamin A, C, folate and lutein necessary for healthy cells, lung, liver and eye health. Orange – beta carotene helps our vision, immune system, and growth and development. Purple provides anthocyanin for our heart and artery health.
I often tell people to make at least half of their daily grain intake “whole” grains. According to the Whole Grain Council, whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed. This definition means that 100% of the original kernel – all of the bran, germ, and endosperm – must be present to qualify as a whole grain. So why is this important? Whole grains reduce the risk of stroke by 30-36%, type 2 diabetes by 21-30% and heart disease by 25-28%. Whole grains are also beneficial for better weight management. Some suggestions for whole grains are brown rice, barley, oats, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and wild rice. Why not try something new this month?
Protein should be a little less than a quarter of your plate per meal, a serving is 2-3 ounces of meat, poultry, or fish, two eggs, two tablespoons nut butter, or a third cup of dry beans. You should strive to eat a variety of protein foods each week. And remember to keep it lean. Protein is important for building and repairing body tissues, and it regulates body processes, such as water balancing, transporting nutrients, and making muscles contract.
It’s not just food – you’ve got to move! Part of this year’s campaign includes being physically active your way. Pick an activity you like and start by doing what you can, at least 10 minutes at a time. General guidelines are children and teens need 60 minutes or more a day of physical activity and adults should strive for 2 ½ hours or more per week of a moderate activity such as brisk walking.
Use MyPlate as an easy visual when planning your meals; remember that half of your plate should be colorful with fruits and veggies. The other half of your plate should include your grains and protein, and don’t forget you daily servings of dairy. To achieve this year’s theme you also need to include your daily/weekly activity to fully “Get Your Plate in Shape”.
Peggy Korody is a Registered Dietitian and owner of RD4Health Nutrition Counseling, LLC in Rancho Santa Fe. She is also a Certified LEAP Therapist – Helping people who suffer with food sensitivities which can lead to - IBS, Migraines, Fibromyalgia, and other inflammatory conditions. Her first cookbook, “Little Hands in the Kitchen” is available on her website. For more information on services offered please visit RD4Health.com or email pkorody@RD4Health.com, 858-401-9936.