Building a healthy plate can ensure adequate intake of important nutrients and help maintain weight loss goals. It’s not as difficult as it sounds!
Divide the plate in half, and fill one side with fruits and vegetables, making it as colorful as possible to pack in a variety of nutrients. Try steaming frozen or low sodium canned vegetables for easy side dishes. Don’t like cooked veggies? Salads, raw vegetables or mixed dishes, like stir fries, soups and pastas made with vegetables, all count. Fruit options are also plentiful. Slice fresh fruit and top a sandwich. Add a handful of dried fruit to a salad. Try low-fat yogurt with frozen or canned fruit (packed in water) for dessert.
Divide the other half of the plate in half again. Fill one half with grains, and try to make more choices whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa or 100% whole wheat bread. Fill the bottom half with lean protein, like lean beef, poultry without skin, pork, fish, beans, legumes, nuts or tofu.
Add some calcium-rich foods. Having a cup of low-fat or non-fat milk or yogurt or a slice of low-fat cheese is an easy way to obtain bone-building calcium. Try cooking with dairy, too: smoothies, soups, puddings, hot cereals and sauces are delicious when made with milk Calcium-rich alternatives, like fortified soymilk, are also good.
Be creative! Swap the usual lunch time sandwich for a salad made with a new grain or spice. Instead of reaching for soda, try a fruit smoothie for snack, or replace potato chips with a handful of nuts or low fat popcorn. Check the food market or local farm stand for seasonal fruits and vegetables: they’ll be less expensive and have more flavor when purchased soon after harvest. Spring favorites that will appear fresh in the next few months include baby salad greens, spinach, kale, asparagus, artichokes, peas, fava beans, new potatoes, morel mushrooms, rhubarb and strawberries.
Make small changes that work for you. Instead of rethinking the entire plate at once, change one section at a time, choosing healthful foods and flavors you enjoy. Over time, small changes that are maintained consistently become habits that lead to a healthier you! To learn more about a healthy plate visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture at http://www.choosemyplate.gov. For more information about National Nutrition Month and tips on healthy eating all year long, check out www.eatright.org/nnm.