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Time to shape up your plate

March 06, 2012

March is National Nutrition Month, sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which makes it a great time to get your family’s plate in shape. We tend to do what we’ve always done when it comes to food. We eat familiar foods, sometimes over and over, and usually consume the same quantity of food.

But this is something to think about. Is our routine or habits setting us up to eat when we aren’t even hungry? Your body may need more or less food from one day to the next, but the only way to find out is to tune in! So your first tip to getting your plate in shape is…

Slow down and savor it!

Taste every bite. How is this meal meeting your needs for taste, texture, sight, and smell? If we rush through our meal we miss out on the eating experience, and may end up eating too much. Go ahead, throw out the clean-your-plate rule and encourage your kids to eat until they’re satisfied!

The rest of the plate puzzle is pretty easy. To start, make a fist with your hand. Okay, now you’re ready. Hang tight and I’ll explain.

Fruits and Vegetables = 2 Fists.

Get your plate in shape by making half of your plate produce. Fruits and vegetables provide a big dose of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber to the body. It’s easy to sneak in fruit between meals by blending them into a smoothie, popping them on top of cereal or oatmeal, or cutting up a whole piece for your little one.

Lean Proteins = 1 Fist.

Proteins are the building blocks for our cells, so mix it up with beans, nuts, eggs, seafood, and lean meats on a quarter of your plate. Encourage your family to eat seafood twice a week, especially those fatty fishes like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and halibut.

Grains= 1 Fist.

Make a quarter of your plate whole grains for fill-you-up-fiber and B vitamins. Not all multi-grains are created equal, so scan the ingredient list for 100% whole grain, or make sure whole grain is the first ingredient. If it says enriched, it’s not whole. Choose whole grain breads, pastas, crackers, brown rice, quinoa, wheat berries, and rye.

Dairy= 1 Fist.

Milk, yogurt, and cheese provide nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Including a serving with each meal will help make a healthy plate. The Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children over 2-years-old drink low-fat or fat-free milk for all the bone-healthy nutrients with less calories and fat. There are alternative options if someone in your family has “issues” digesting milk, like calcium-fortified soy and lactose-free milk, which are both tasty!

Just remember, little fists equal smaller plates and portions. Kids do not need the same portion size as adults, so it will help to judge the appropriate amount by using their fists as a guide. Plus, it’s a fun way to get the kids involved too!

A healthy plate is a balanced plate. It includes all the food groups to ensure your body gets the right nutrition. So let’s shape up our plates together, are you in?

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