Thursday, March 1, 2012

National Nutrition Month: Get Your Plate in Shape

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics urges you to “Get Your Plate in Shape” during National Nutrition Month! The new MyPlate website helps you see how to make simple changes with lifetime benefits.Get Your Plate in Shape helps you act by offering creative ideas for including the food groups in your daily life.

1. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. The goal for the day is to eat (at least) 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables. It’s actually a simple addition/subtraction concept. If you have not been eating this quantity each day, you have been eating too much of something else. That “something” likely has more calories, fat and sodium and fewer nutrients than fruit or vegetables. Tip: Do a number on your next pizza. Add broccoli, spinach, garden peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, etc.

2. Make at least half your grains whole. To achieve this, you need to eat more brown rice, barley, 100% whole wheat bread, etc. By increasing fiber intake, you improve your intestinal health and also benefit
from the fact that you absorb zero calories from fiber sources. Tip: Veggie wrap with a whole-wheat tortilla, roasted vegetables and low-fat cheese.

3. Vary your protein choices. If you’re like most people, you usually do a good job of eating animal-based protein, but don’t forget about other sources such as nuts, beans, seafood, whole soy foods, etc. Tip: Add additional protein to your next salad by topping with black or garbanzo beans, and your favorite nuts or seeds.

4. Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk. You know we need calcium, but you may not know that you can almost cut your “calcium-calories” in half by making this simple switch. Tip. Replace all high fat dairy products with the “lighter” versions (e.g. fat-free or 1% milk, part skim mozzarella cheese sticks, non-fat yogurt, etc.)

5. Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars. To reduce sodium, make sure to read labels on food items and choose the lower sodium option. Tip: At home, use more spices and herbs instead of salt when cooking. Use heart-healthy oils like olive or canola instead of fat that is solid at room temperature (butter or shortening). As for removing sugars from your diet, understand that if you stopped drinking just one can of soda each day, you could lose as much as 13 lbs. in one year!

Check out the many great resources available, including easy recipes, healthy eating ideas for kids, other helpful tips, fun games, promotional tools and nutrition education recourses at the Academy’s National Nutrition Month website ( Also, if you’re interested in finding out how to make healthier choices at restaurants, visit and join the conversation at or

Shana Patterson, R.D., is a registered dietitian with the American Dietetic Association and serves as the Nutrition Coordinator for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Patterson created the Smart Meal Colorado restaurant program to engage with the food service and hospitality industry and to increase consumer awareness of healthy menu options.

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