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Get your plate in shape during National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month and the theme is “Get Your Plate in Shape.” Overwhelmed with staying on the right track with a healthy diet? Building a healthy lunch and dinner plate can be as easy as A-B-C-D.

Begin by dividing a lunch or dinner plate into four sections. Section A is half of the plate, or two sections. Load half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Try to vary your fruits and vegetables and eat a variety of colors. The more colorful the fruits and vegetables are the more vitamins and minerals. Frozen, canned, dried, and vegetables are good options. Look for vegetables without added salt, butter, or cream sauces. When it comes to varieties of fruit, keep an eye out for fresh, dried, frozen or canned in 100% juice or water. Before eating any fresh fruits or vegetables be sure to wash and dry the produce with a clean paper towel. To help get more fruits and vegetables into a regular diet keep the produce insight. Keep a bowl of fruit on the counter and a container of cut up vegetables at eye level in the refrigerator. Vegetables are “filler foods” which help to ward off hunger.

Section B is ¼ of the plate or one section for grain. Make at least half the grains consumed in a day whole grain. Using whole grain products as much as possible helps to increase the amount of fiber in the diet. A high fiber diet may help lower the risk for type 2 diabetes and some cancers. A high fiber diet also helps with weight control and regularity. When picking out breads the word “whole” is key. Choose bread products with the words “whole grain” listed as one of the first three ingredients for optimal fiber intake.

The  last ¼ of the plate, or section C,  is for protein. Protein is found in a variety of foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, beans, peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds. Protein needs vary from person to person. Use the palm of your hand as an indicator of portion size for protein. The protein source for lunch and dinner should be about the size of your palm. Not all protein is created equal. Keep protein choices small and lean.

D is for dairy or other calcium rich foods. Aim for three one cup servings of calcium rich foods. Low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt are all great sources of calcium. But if not a milk drinker, calcium fortified soymilk is another way to meet daily calcium needs. Fat-free and low fat milk products have the same amount of calcium as higher fat milk products and have less calories.

Building a healthy plate is the way to go for eating right. But, portion control is also key to staying on the right track with a healthy diet. Be mindful of portion sizes and fill up on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or 1% milk products. Foods high in solid fats, sodium, and added sugar should be eaten less frequently or as a special treat.

Cooking at home makes it easier to control the sodium and fat content of meals. But when dining out, ask for steamed vegetables instead of a fried side item. For better portion control ask for half of the meal to be placed into a to-go box when ordering.

For more information on building a healthy plate visit www.choosemyplate.gov or visit www.eatright.org.  or contact Carolinas Medical Center-Lincoln Clinical Nutrition department for more assistance.  March is National Nutrition Month

Elizabeth Menke is a diatetic intern with Carolinas Medical Center-Lincoln.


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