Is Your Plate “In Shape”?

It’s time to get our “Plates in Shape”…or at least that is the goal of National Nutrition Month 2012. March will be devoted to getting the message out that we need to be more mindful of our lifestyle and food choices. Ultimately, for me it is not only about the (hopefully) healthful plate of food we consume at meal times but also the larger “plate” that is life (the one that most of us generally feel is too full), as it’s this larger plate that often needs reshaping.

MyPlate Logo
MyPlate Logo / U.S. Department of Agriculture / CC BY 2..0

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), many of us don’t take the necessary steps that lead to an overall healthier diet. A message within the National Nutrition Month theme is to go back to basics, to recall the simple messages we have heard before about diet and lifestyle and apply them. The goal is to be healthier today to ensure a healthier tomorrow, to remember the simple guidelines that lead to big results.

You have probably heard, for example, that you should make sure your meals always offer adequate protein, starch and vegetables or fruit. But do you always balance your plate to achieve this? According to the AND, an “in-shape” plate will be half fruits and vegetables to ensure we are consuming the recommended 3-5 daily servings and consuming the many nutrients and antioxidants our body requires. Learning proper portion size and balancing your plate are simple changes that can get your diet “in shape” and shouldn’t be ignored as essential components for success.

There are some more specific ideas around getting your “plate in shape” that shouldn’t be overlooked as essential for creating a healthier lifestyle. These include putting down the salt shaker and increasing consumption of fish, walnuts and other omega fat-rich foods. We are also advised to vary our protein sources to include more vegetarian options such as lentils, beans and soy. If your current plate doesn’t generally include these foods, the AND reminds us that we are missing out on an opportunity to reduce our risk of heart disease.

It is important to note this year’s National Nutrition Month theme is not just about food. It is also about making an overall healthy lifestyle a top priority. Begin with committing to regular physical activity. We should aim for at least 2 ½ hours per week of moderate intensity exercise. According to the AND, dividing this out through the week into at least ten-minute intervals can be beneficial. I believe that it is important to take some time to think about how your daily schedule, life and personal “plate” impact your food and lifestyle choices. I wrote last about the endurance required to make and sustain positive change: National Nutrition month echoes my message.

So how can you translate the 2012 theme into your daily practice? Take a moment to check out the many resources and tips available at www.eatright.org/nnm. Ask yourself if you are measuring up. If you aren’t, then set clear and specific goals to improve your diet: “I will eat fruit or vegetables with every meal” or “I will use salt-free seasonings to flavor my food.” These simple changes will go a long way to improving your health.

I also strongly encourage making Guiding Stars your partner for success in getting your plate in shape. After all, our scientific, patented algorithm uses the current dietary guidelines and recommendations from the World Health Organization and others to rate the foods commonly found on your supermarket shelves (visit  http://food.guidingstars.com/  to search for your favorite products). In other words, we’ve done the work for you. The foods that rate as “best foods” are vitamin- and mineral-rich and low in unhealthful fats, sodium and sugar. In other words, they summarize the messages of National Nutrition Month and help you choose the foods that are best for satisfying the goal of getting your plate in shape.