Choosing nutritious foods and getting enough physical activity can make a significant difference in
your health. For National Nutrition Month 2020, in March, we want to encourage people to make informed food choices and develop sound eating and physical activity habits.
Food is more than a source of calories for energy. It is also a source of essential nutrients that cannot be made by the human body. The foods we choose to eat profoundly affect our health, even though it may take weeks, months, or even years, to become apparent.
How do we know what to eat?
Every five years, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) are required by law to jointly publish the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines reflect the current body of nutrition science and help health professionals and policymakers guide Americans to make healthy food and beverage choices. These recommendations are designed to:
• promote health
• prevent chronic disease
• help people reach and maintain a healthy weight
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans include five key recommendations for healthy eating patterns:
• Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan.
• Focus on variety, nutrient density and amount.
• Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake.
• Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.
• Support healthy eating patterns for all.
The USDA’s MyPlate icon can help consumers make better food choices by acting as a reminder of what their plate should look like—including foods from all the food groups over the course of a day.
How to Build a Healthy Plate:
® Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
• Fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables all count.
® Make at least half your grains whole grains.
Choose products that name a whole grain first on the ingredients list.
® Switch to skim or 1% milk.
• Fat-free and low-fat milk have the same essential nutrients as whole milk, but less fat and calories.
• Choose milk, cheese, yogurt, or fortified soymilk for dairy foods.
® Vary your protein food choices.
• Choose seafood twice a week as the protein on your plate.
• Choose lean meats and ground beef that are at least 90% lean.
• Don’t forget to include beans and peas, nuts, and eggs as protein foods each week.
• How do casseroles and mixed foods fit on MyPlate?
Some foods such as casseroles, pizza, burritos and sandwiches do not fit neatly into one food group. These mixed dishes are made of foods from various food groups. An example would be the different parts of a burrito—tortilla (grains group), beans (protein foods group), cheese (dairy group), onions and salsa (vegetable group
A plate can hold a lot of food. The portion sizes, or amounts, of different foods you put on your plate make a big difference. The way the food was prepared can also make a difference when making a healthy plate, especially if there were extra fats or sugars added during cooking. These additions add extra calories.
Tips for Building a Healthy Plate:
¨ Think about what you are putting on your plate—think before you eat.
¨ Avoid oversize portions by using a smaller plate or bowl.
¨ Say yes to salads and other vegetables. Make sure to get plenty of red, orange, and dark-green vegetables on your plate throughout the week.
¨ Select fruit for dessert to control your urge to grab a cookie or other high-calorie sweets.
¨ Use a measuring cup to measure your amounts when serving so that you become skilled at estimating portion sizes.
¨ Eat your calories rather than drink your calories. Have water, low-fat milk, or other lower-calorie beverages instead of regular soft drinks and sweet tea.
Every healthy nutritional choice is a choice in the right direction!