Barbara L Sutton, MOEd, RD, CD
The theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month, which occurs every March, is “Get Your Plate in Shape” and I welcome the increased opportunities I have to encourage everyone to choose a variety of healthy foods daily.
Funny, looking at these sample plates, one does not see a section labeled “dessert”, nor one labeled “snacks”. Is there room in a “healthy” diet for snacks and/or dessert? How often, and how much?
Snacks of fruits and vegetables can contribute to successfully eating more servings from these food groups, particularly if you plan ahead and pack them to take along to work, school or other activities. Some examples of healthy options include: Hummus and veggies
Apple slices with nut butter
Grapes and a part-skim mozzarella cheese stick
Dried fruit – dates, figs, or apricots, and plain dry roasted almonds (12)
By planning ahead, and packing delicious snacks, the temptation to buy from the snack machines just about disappears; at home, have snacks ready to eat when the craving hits.
It is important to remember that we all have an energy “allowance” (your calorie needs) and you can “spend” it in many ways. By spreading it out over three (small) meals and two or three snacks, your body will run more efficiently.
Desserts can absolutely be part of a day’s allowance, providing that you are getting all your nutrient needs met (adequate protein, vegetables, some whole grains, and some fruits). Fruits can be part of dessert, if prepared thoughtfully. Some examples include: a parfait with a layer of low fat vanilla yogurt or pudding with mandarin oranges or blueberries in a tall glass, topped with a small sprinkle of granola; a waffle cone filled with cut up fruit, and topped with low-fat yogurt; a fruit smoothie; or fruit kabobs, made with strawberries, cherries, raspberries, banana slices, or other fruits, served with melted dark chocolate for a dip.
Chocolate can be enjoyed, in small quantities, provided you are choosing dark chocolate, and the portion size needs to be limited. Scientific evidence suggests that small amounts of dark chocolate can have a number of positive health effects.
As for choosing traditional desserts, portion control and awareness of total energy needs are the important points to remember. I like to think that there is no food that one cannot enjoy, if eaten in moderation and not too frequently. Remember, make it a habit to eat a healthy amount of vegetables, as well as some fruit, and your cravings for unhealthy foods will decrease over time.
What's on Your Plate?
Barbara L Sutton, MOEd, RD, CD
March is here, and it’s time to celebrate National Nutrition Month once again. This year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly
the American Dietetic Association) is encouraging Americans to include healthy foods daily through the theme “Get Your Plate in Shape.”
Have you visited the USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.gov website yet? If not, what are you waiting for? First lady Michelle Obama is highlighted on the opening page, which features colorful interactive options that can engage children as well as adults. The tabs allow for more specific information on a variety of topics, including My Plate, which is the featured logo to help to teach Americans what portion sizes we should eat from the different food groups.
ChooseMyPlate has a Weight Management and Calories selection that helps users determine what amount of food is appropriate to eat, and tips for weight loss. Other tabs include Physical Activity, a SuperTracker to get a personalized nutrition plan, a tab for Printed Materials and Ordering, and also a tab for Healthy Eating Tips. It takes less than five minutes to enter your information (under SuperTracker) and create a profile. This provides individualized estimated calorie and food group serving suggestions to achieve your goal weight.
The plate is taking center stage at Harvard’s School of Public Health as well, and their experts released their version called the Healthy Eating Plate. Their website notes that they have fixed the flaws in the USDA’s My Plate. What are the differences? There is a glass of water instead of a glass of milk, and they suggest limiting milk and dairy products to one to two servings per day. The Healthy Eating Plate also includes a small glass bottle containing healthy vegetable oils, which can include olive oil, canola or other plant oils, which are good for the heart. Whole grains (versus just grains) are suggested, and vegetables do not include potatoes in the Harvard version. Fruits are shown in a more moderate serving.
Examining how your plate compares to either of these models is a great way to start Nutrition Month. Remember to eat a variety of colorful vegetables, keep your serving size appropriate, and exercise regularly.