For 2012, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics have devised the slogan—"Get Your Plate in Shape" to mark National Nutrition Month in March. Becky Foster, Registered Dietitian and food service director at United Hospital Center, wants you to think about what kind of shape your plate is in. "Throughout your day, include foods from all the food groups but remember to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables," said Foster. Foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods contain the nutrients you need without consuming too many calories.
Make sure to eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark green, red and orange vegetables plus beans and peas. By including fruits and vegetables that are in season, you can keep the cost down while getting the maximum nutrition. (In case you are wondering, potato chips and corn chips do NOT count as a vegetable. Sorry.) Add fruit to meals and snacks by purchasing fruits that are fresh, dried, frozen or canned. Avoid fruits with added sugar or syrups and canned or frozen vegetables with added salt.
The other half of your plate should be lean protein such as seafood (twice each week), nuts, beans, lean meat, poultry and eggs and whole grains. Keeping meat and poultry portions small and lean will help control cost but also keep your saturated fat intake in check. Choose 100 percent whole-grain breads, cereals, crackers, pasta and brown rice. To find whole-grains, check the ingredients list on food packages.
Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk. "These alternatives have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but less fat and calories," said Foster. "If you find skim milk to be too thin, try 'super skim'. However, if you are lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk or a calcium-fortified soy beverage."
Drink water, herb tea, green tea or 100% fruit juice instead of sugary drinks.
Look out for salt (sodium) in the foods you buy. Compare sodium in foods and choose those with less than 300 milligrams per serving. Add spices or herbs to season food without adding salt.
It is important to remember to make major sources of saturated fats occasional choices, not every day foods. Foods high in fat include cheesecake, pies, brownies, ice cream, pizza, lasagna, whole milk cheeses, sausages, hot dogs, fried meats and fish, fried vegetables and fried fruits.
Overwhelmed? Here are four ways to ensure success and get your plate in shape. First, cook more often at home, where you are in control of what is in your food. Second, go through your pantry and refrigerator and dispose of anything that does not meet the criteria above. Third, plan meals for a week. If you find it difficult to come up with one week's worth of healthy meals, your plate is in worse shape than you, may have realized. While planning ahead takes a little effort, you will find it much easier to be successful if you are not trying to make decisions on what to eat when you are hungry. Have a plan and stick to it. Fourth, make a shopping list from your menu and stick to the list.
"Finally, use a smaller plate, bowl and glass to avoid oversized portions," Foster said. "If you're not sure how much to eat, you can get your personal daily calorie limit at www.ChooseMyPlate.gov and keep that number in mind when choosing portions." Healthy food DOES taste good. Try this recipe for Caribbean Black Bean Salsa.
Caribbean Black Bean Salsa
Black beans, drained 2 15.5 oz cans
Corn, drained 1 15.5 oz can
Tomatoes, diced 2 15.5 oz cans
Green Onion, chopped 5 oz
Cumin 1.5 tsp
Garlic 2.5 tsp
Jamaican Relish 2.5 cups
Green Chilies, diced 8 oz
Dried Cilantro 1 tsp
Pineapple Tidbits 1 16 oz can
Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl. Chill overnight. Yield 1 gallon.
Serving suggestions: as a side dish to sandwiches or Mexican entrees or as an entire salad.
Nutrition Facts per 4 oz serving: Carbohydrate 13 grams, Protein 3 grams, Fat 0 grams, Kcal 58.