March is National Nutrition Month, a good time to take a hard look at what you’re putting on your plate.
“Get Your Plate in Shape” is the theme of this year’s eat-right campaign by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). The Academy encourages everyone to fill their plates with the right balance of healthy foods.
Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods contain the nutrients you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle, according to the academy.
National Nutrition Week began in 1973 and became a monthlong observance in 1980 in response to growing public interest in nutrition. As part of its national campaign this year, the academy’s website (eatright.org) includes helpful tips, fun games, promotional tools and nutrition education resources.
Here are a few tips to “Get Your Plate in Shape”:
• Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
• Eat a variety of fresh or frozen vegetables, especially dark-green, red and orange types, as well as beans and peas.
• Check the ingredients list on food packages to find foods that are made with whole grains.
• Vary your protein choices and include 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 such as tofu.
• Keep meat and poultry portions lean and limit to three ounces per meal.
• 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, drink lactose-free milk or a calcium-fortified soy beverage.
• Cut back on sodium and calories from solid fats.
• 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.
• Be mindful of your daily calorie needs. Think about the portions on your plate. Divide your plate in four sections: whole grains, lean proteins, vegetables and fruits, and a side of dairy such as a cup of low-fat milk, one ounce of low-fat cheese or yogurt.
• Get into the kitchen and take charge. Cooking more often at home allows you to be in control of your food, choose healthier fats, less sodium and increase the fiber in your diet while balancing the amount of calories you eat.
• Avoid large portions by using smaller plates, bowls and glasses. Fill your plate with nutrient-dense, lower-calorie foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein foods such as beans, lean meat, seafood and poultry.
• Watch out for liquid calories. The calories in fruit juices, sugar-laden coffee and other sugary drinks can add up fast. Also, think before drinking alcoholic beverages as they have calories too. Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Choose 100 percent fruit juice.
• Log it. Use a food log to keep track of the foods, the amounts and calories you are eating daily. It will make you more aware of what you are eating.