A little heavy on the starch, lean in the protein department, entirely too much dairy—looks like your meal could use a makeover. And talk about perfect timing—tomorrow begins National Nutrition Month, a 30-day, healthy-eating campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). This year’s theme? “Get your plate in shape!”
Before you roll your eyes and click away from yet another lecture-y blog post on why you should eat more fruits and vegetables, consider this: a lot of people are genuinely confused about food. We’re constantly bombarded with advice on what to eat, what not to eat, how much to eat and when to eat it. And then new studies come out, changing the “rules” before you’ve even had a chance to start following them.
To help clear things up, the USDA scrapped their outdated food pyramid models and created a new, at-a-glance visual for healthy eating—MyPlate. Divided into brightly colored sections for four food groups (protein, grains, fruits and veggies), with a “cup holder” on the side for dairy, MyPlate is meant to nudge Americans away from meat-and-potato meals toward healthier, plant-based options.
While the MyPlate icon does a great job illustrating the basics of good nutrition, some of the fine print (what type of grains? which source of protein?) is left out. So, for the month of March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is offering some simple tips to help you get your plate in shape.
- Fill at least half of your plate with fruits and veggies.
- Every meal (and snack) should have at least one fruit or veggie (or both).
- Go for dark green, red and orange fruits or veggies whenever possible.
- Drink 100% fruit juice.
- For grains portions, make at least half of them whole grains.
- Switch to 100% whole-grain breads, crackers and cereals.
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products.
- Eat more plant-based proteins: nuts, beans and soy foods like tofu and edamame.
- Eating meat or poultry? Keep portion size to 3 ounces per meal.
- At least twice a week, make fish and seafood the protein on your plate.
- Use heart-healthy oils, such as olive, canola or sunflower, instead of butter or shortening when cooking.
- Use spices and herbs instead of salt to flavor foods.
Thirty days. That’s 90 meals! How will you get your plate in shape? Let us know if you have any tips or tricks for transforming less-than-ideal breakfasts, lunches or dinners into meals you’re proud of.