'Get Your Plate in Shape' for National Nutrition Month

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In honor March's National Nutrition Month, the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers its top tips for maintaining a more balanced diet.

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If your New Year’s resolutions fell by the wayside weeks ago, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ annual National Nutrition Month is a great way to get back on track. Each March since 1980, National Nutrition Month serves as a reminder to make smart, nutritious diet choices and exercise more for better health. This year, the theme is Get Your Plate In Shape, which plays off of the USDA’s 2011 switch to MyPlate as the national symbol for a balanced diet. The theme is meant to encourage consumers to eat the recommended amount of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy each day.

“Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy products contain the nutrients we need to maintain healthy lifestyles,” said Academy Spokesperson Andrea Giancoli, RD, in a release. “Make sure your eating plan includes foods from all the food groups and in appropriate portions.”

Giancoli also offers these guidelines to help you eat healthier:

1. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, and aim to include at least one fruit or vegetable in every meal or snack. In compliance with the MyPlate guidelines, the Academy recommends you eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green, red, and orange varieties, as well as legumes such as beans and peas. Choose reduced-sodium or no salt added canned vegetables whenever possible. If fresh fruits aren’t available to you, opt for frozen fruits and those canned in water or their own juices.


2. Make at least half your grains whole. Choose brown rice, barley, oats, and other whole grains instead of white rice or enriched white-flour pasta. Switch to 100-percent whole-grain breads, cereals, and crackers, and remember to double-check ingredient lists on all food packages to ensure that the first ingredient is whole grain.

3. Switch to low- or nonfat dairy. Because full-fat dairy has been linked to weight gain, consume only low-fat dairy products — they have the same amount of calcium and essential nutrients as full-fat kinds for a fraction of the calories.

4. Go for varied lean protein sources. Aim to eat different kinds of protein-rich foods such as seafood, nuts, beans, lean meat, and eggs for a variety of nutrients. You should also try to eat more plant-based proteins, such as nuts, beans, whole grains, and whole soy foods, such as tofu and edamame. At least twice a week, consume fish or seafood. If you are eating meat, limit your portion to three ounces per meal.

5. Cut back on sodium, solid fats, and added sugars. Swap sugary sodas and fruit-flavored drinks for water. When grocery shopping, compare like food’s nutritional information and choose the lower-sodium option. Season foods with spices and herbs instead of salt. In place of butter or shortening, use heart-healthy oil such as olive, canola, and sunflower.

6. Cook at home more. If you frequently eat out at restaurants, you could be constantly adding unwanted calories, fat, and sodium to your diet. Pack a lunch and snacks when you know you’re going to be away from home for several hours. If you are eating in a restaurant, opt for diet-friendly choices such as fish and steamed and roasted vegetables, and avoid creamy sauces, rich dressings, and fried foods.

7. Get active. Giancoli suggests you find activities you enjoy such as walking with your family, joining a sports team, or dancing and playing with your children. “If you don’t have a full 30 minutes [for exercise], carve out 10 minutes three times a day,” she advises. “Every bit adds up and health benefits increase the more active you are."

Source: Everyday Health
February 28, 2012
By Annie Hauser
http://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/0228/get-your-plate-in-shape-for-national-nutrition-month.aspx

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