By Kimberly Tessmer, RD, LD

March is National Nutrition Month sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association).  This year the theme is “Get Your Plate in Shape” and revolves around the new USDA’s MyPlate which encourages people to include healthy foods from ALL of the food groups including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.  USDA’s MyPlate is the perfect tool to help guide you through the food groups that make up a healthy and balanced eating plan.

These are some great tips from MyPlate that will help you get started getting your plate and your diet in shape today:

  • Make at least half of your grains whole grains: check the ingredients on packaged foods such as breads, pasta, cereals, rice and crackers and start choosing more often products that are made with whole grains.  La Tortilla Factory only uses whole grains in its items. Some of my favorite are the Smart & Delicious Low Carb, High Fiber Tortilla or the Smart & Delicious Fiber & Flax Corn tortillas. Fill up ¼ of plate with grains and make them whole grains as often as possible.
  • Add more fruits and veggies: When you think of getting your plate in shape think of making at least ½ of your plate fruits and veggies.  Eat a variety of both to ensure you are getting the best nutritional intake from these foods.  Make sure every meal or snack has at least one fruit, veggie or both.
  • Don’t forget about calcium: Even though it may not always fit onto your plate, calcium-rich foods such as dairy products need to be included daily.  They are chock full of calcium, vitamin D, potassium, protein and other nutrients essential for good health.  To stay healthy choose the low-fat or fat-free versions.
  • Stick with lean protein choices: Eat a variety of lean protein foods each week including seafood, nuts, beans, lean meat, poultry and eggs.  Consider eating more plant-based proteins such as nuts, beans and soy such as tofu and edamame on a weekly basis.  Don’t forget fish, which is full of heart healthy nutrients and shoot for twice per week.  Fill up ¼ of your plate with lean protein choices.
  • Cut back on sodium, empty calories, unhealthy fats and added sugars: When filling up your plate, keep these all in mind.  Drink water instead of sugar-filled beverages.  Compare sodium levels on packages and choose those with less.  Season your foods with herbs and spices and leave the saltshaker off the table.  Use heart healthy fats in place of unhealthier ones.  Choose olive oil instead of butter or guacamole instead of mayonnaise just to name a few.

These are just a few tips to help you start getting your plate in shape.  Eating healthier helps you in so many ways, including: better health, will help you maintain and control your weight easier and will contribute to your overall wellbeing.  Don’t forget to combine exercise with this regiment as that goes hand-in-hand with these tips.

To learn more about National Nutrition Monthâ check out:  http://www.eatright.org/nnm/

To learn more about MyPlate check out:  http://www.choosemyplate.gov