Get Your Plate in Shape!

March is the perfect time to take a look at what you put on your plate.

 In honor of National Nutrition Month, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) runs a nutrition education campaign, and this year’s theme is “Get Your Plate in Shape.” So while preparing your meals at home or choosing your foods at a restaurant, make sure your plate or bowl always has everything you need for a balanced diet: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean sources of protein. Before you eat, consider the size of your dish. Try an eight-inch plate or smaller to avoid eating too-large portions. Here are some meal preparation ideas. 

Meal Preparation Idea No. 1: Load up half of your plate with fruits and veggies. 

Vegetables

Enjoy a variety of veggie types, shapes and colors, especially anything dark green and leafy. Fresh, frozen and canned are all good options for a balanced diet, but be sure to look for labels that say “no salt added” or “reduced sodium” when purchasing canned and frozen vegetables. If you don’t love the flavor of plain veggies, feel free to dip them in or top them with a little light or oil-based dressing. Try Wish-Bone® Light Ranch dressing with carrot sticks, or the Arugula & Roasted Pepper Salad topped with Wish-Bone® Balsamic Vinaigrette

Fruit

For a balanced diet, choose fruits that are fresh, dried, frozen, or canned in water or their own juices (not in syrup or sugar). Although 100% juice also counts as fruit, it sometimes has added sugar (a no-no), so check the label before you purchase. 

Meal Preparation Idea No. 2: Split the other half of your plate between whole grains and lean protein. 

Whole Grains

Choose whole grain breads, rice, crackers, pastas and cereals. They contain more nutrients (fiber, vitamins and minerals) than their refined white counterparts. Don’t get fooled; not all products labeled “wheat” contain whole wheat. Check the ingredients list for whole wheat, whole grain, whole wheat flour, oats, oatmeal, wheat berries or brown rice. The “whole grain” stamp can be found on many products, so be on the lookout!


Lean Proteins

Eat a variety of proteins for a balanced diet. Choose lean meats like turkey and chicken over beef. If you enjoy beef, select cuts with the least fat. The white part of raw meat is fat — mostly saturated fat — so be sure to cut it off before cooking the meat. Make seafood your protein twice a week. Nuts, beans, tofu and eggs are also good sources of protein. 

Meal Preparation Idea No. 3: Get your calcium too!

Low-Fat or Fat-Free Dairy 

Enjoy three or four servings of foods containing calcium every day. Switch to fat-free or low-fat varieties that contain the same amount of calcium and other nutrients, but have less fat and calories. If you have trouble digesting dairy products, try lactose-free milk or a calcium-fortified soy beverage. 


Join in and celebrate National Nutrition Month by getting that plate in shape! And visit eatright.org for more healthy eating tips.


The information in this article was adapted from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics National Nutrition Month Eat Right handout .
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