It’s March and National Nutrition Month! It’s important to make good food choices year-round, however, this annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics choose this month to reinforce healthy eating habits. This year’s theme, ‘Personalize Your Plate’ showcases that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition and health. We are unique and have different bodies, goals, backgrounds, and tastes. Here are some ways you can build a healthy ‘personalized’ plate for your own mealtime.
Choose a variety of nutritious foods that you like from the groups below:
- Brightly colored fruits and 100% fruit juice
- Vibrantly colored vegetables
- Fiber-rich whole-grain foods
- Low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt or fortified plant-based alternatives
- Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, soy foods (tofu and tempeh), beans, lentils and nuts
Be creative when adding them to your plate. For example, add your favorite nuts and dried fruit to oatmeal or other cereals. Wash and cut your favorite vegetables for ready-to-eat snacks or lunch bags. Increase whole grains by making sandwiches on whole-wheat bread. If whole-grain bread is not your ‘go to’ bread, make ‘checkerboard’ sandwiches. Use one slice of whole wheat and white bread. It will help you slowly get used to the taste and texture of this nutritious alternative.
Plan ahead to make nutritious meals for the week. Every Sunday, I take inventory of all my food sources – fridge, freezer, and pantry. Next, I choose recipes based upon my inventory and pencil in on a calendar the main dishes for each day of the coming week. For example, Monday-macaroni and cheese (Meatless Monday), Tuesday-chicken, Wednesday-chili, etc. Then I add veggies, broccoli for Monday, carrots for Tuesday, and a hearty green salad for Wednesday. Finally, I complete each menu with our favorite whole grains, fruit, and dairy item. The time spent planning a week’s worth of meals in one day saves an enormous amount of time the rest of the week. There’s no more mad dash to throw a meal together or run out for fast food. And, since the meals are on the calendar, other people in your household can grab the recipes and ingredients for that day and get the meal started.
To keep this meal planning cycle running smoothly, make sure you maintain a well-stocked food supply and keep a running grocery list. I keep my list in plain sight on the fridge so anyone in my household can add items to the list.
Honing your culinary skills can also help you personalize your plate. Creating delicious dishes using different cooking techniques like sautéing, stir-frying, and grilling, add texture and enhance the flavors without adding a lot of extra ingredients, fat or calories. Following healthy recipes is easier if you understand the cooking terms. Whether you are a new chef or a seasoned chef (no pun intended) looking to be more kitchen savvy, consider tuning in to TV cooking shows and learn from the pros, watch cooking YouTube videos or check out cooking classes at local community colleges and other places in your area.
To learn more about how to Personalize Your Plate, go to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, National Nutrition Month page at https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition-month. Check out the free downloadable tip sheets available in English and Spanish to get you started. Bon Appetit!