March is National Nutrition Month. This annual nutrition education campaign was created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. There are 10 key messages which aim to encourage people to make healthy food choices.
One key message is to use MyPlate to get you started toward a healthy lifestyle.
MyPlate is a great tool to help you get started on your healthy path. It is a reminder to find a healthy eating pattern that works for you and your family. Created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), MyPlate is an infographic used to illustrate the five food groups on a place setting for a meal. Within each of the five food groups, there is a key message.
Vary your veggies
Try to consume a variety of vegetables from all five vegetable subgroups. This includes dark-green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables. Try to consume vegetables when they are in season. They tend to taste better and have a lower price tag. When purchasing canned or frozen items avoid added sugars and salt.
Focus on whole fruits
Choose whole or cut-up fruit instead of juice, this will help increase your dietary fiber intake. Like your veggies, you want to vary your fruit choices and buy in season. Many fruits offer different nutritional content. Try to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables to get the recommended intake of produce daily.
Make half your grains whole grain
Grains are divided into two subgroups; whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains contain the bran, germ and endosperm. Examples of whole grains are whole wheat flour, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa and bulgur. Refined grains have undergone processing to remove the bran and germ. This process removes the dietary fiber, iron and B vitamins. Some refined grains have been enriched with vitamins to replace those lost during processing.
Move to low-fat or fat-free dairy
Dairy products are a great source of calcium, potassium and Vitamin D. Try to limit intake of dairy products high in saturated fats and cholesterol. Many cheeses, whole milk and other products made from them are high in saturated fats. Diets high in saturated fat can increase the “bad” cholesterol or LDL in the blood.
Vary your protein routine
Try to go lean with protein. Choose lean cuts of beef such as round steak, top loin, or 90 percent and above lean ground beef. Leaner cuts of pork include pork loin, tenderloin and center loin. Consume skinless poultry and try to consume seafood at least twice a week. Choose nuts, beans, peas or soy products as the main protein or part of a meal often.
Drink and eat less sodium, saturated fats and added sugars
MyPlate is more than just an infographic. Even though it’s not displayed on the actual infographic, there are additional tips suggested. Try to limit the intake of salt to 2,300 mg or 1 teaspoon per day. Limit intake of sugary beverages such as soda and juice. Make sure to read the nutrition facts label, typically found on the back or side of the food item. This can help you compare foods and make informed decisions.
MyPlate encourages small changes so you can enjoy your journey over a lifetime. For information, recipes and menus, go to www.choosemyplate.gov or https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_myplate.
Mia Wilchcombe is the Family and Consumer Science Agent for the UF/IFAS Lake County Extension Center.