by Christine Kendle, MS, RDN, LD, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension Tuscarawas County.
March is National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme, “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle,” encourages us to take a good hard look at the food we bite into every day. When I asked my husband about what kind of healthy bites he was inspired to take in celebration of National Nutrition Month, he made mention of a healthy dose of Swiss Cake Rolls and soda. He was only joking, I think, and quickly followed up with, “Not exactly what you had in mind, huh?” While I did not appreciate his making light of what I viewed as a serious topic, his response did cause me think about how important it truly is to make informed decisions about healthy foods. As a dietitian, I find there is a lot of confusion when it comes to selecting foods for good health. What do healthy foods look like?
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Let’s start by taking a look at grains. We are encouraged to make half of our grains whole grains. These are grains that have not been milled, so they typically appear brown in color. Refined grains have been milled, which means the bran and germ layers have been removed to create a lighter product with a finer texture and often extended shelf life. Unfortunately, selecting a loaf of “brown bread” does not ensure a whole grain product since coloring and molasses may have been added. To find a whole grain product, one must be a good label reader. Look for words like whole-wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), oatmeal, whole cornmeal, and brown rice.
Half a Plateful!
Next, add a variety of fruits and vegetables. My very wise mother always told me that nutrients come in colors. How right she was! A recent post by the American Cancer
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Society states that eating many different colors of fruits and vegetables is important in order to get all of the different vitamins and minerals we need. For example, bananas are a great source of potassium while oranges are packed with Vitamin C and dark, leafy greens like spinach provide Vitamin A. Their research shows that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables helps to keep us healthy while reducing our risk of cancer. The USDA recommends that half our plate be made up of fruits and vegetables.
Protein – But Not Too Much
Finally, let’s take a look at lean meats and low-fat dairy products. Selections, like skinless chicken or turkey breast, lean pork, lean beef, and omega-3 rich fish, as well as beans, nuts, and seeds, are an important part of the diet. Frequently, the protein portion of our plate is much larger than it should be! MyPlate guidelines recommend 5-7 ounces of lean protein every day. Including dairy products like low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt help us to build strong bones and meet our calcium and Vitamin D requirements.
So what kind of bites are you taking? Are they teeming with fruits, veggies and whole grains? Do they include healthy, lean protein and low-fat dairy foods? Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov for your personalized plan. The site includes many useful resources, such as the Food-a-pedia and the Supertracker tool.
Written by Christine Kendle, MS, RDN, LD, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension Tuscarawas County.
Reviewed by Beth Stefura, MS, RDN, LD, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension Mahoning County.
American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/healthy/eathealthygetactive/eathealthy/add-fruits-and-veggies-to-your-diet?sitearea=PED. Accessed March 2015.
US Department of Agriculture. http://www.choosemyplate.gov. Accessed March 2015.