Have you ever heard of the old trick where you replace your large dinner plates with salad plates to reduce your food portions? The USDA recently took this one step further and design MyPlate. The brightly colored plate is divided into four equal portions labeled meat/protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

MyPlate is meant to be a visual guide but there are many ways you can Get Your Plate in Shape on your own during National Nutrition Month.

Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, especially dark green, red, orange and purple vegetables plus beans and peas.  Choose “low sodium” or “no-salt-added”.  Fruits choices may be fresh, frozen or canned in water.  100% juice is best and should be portioned in a smaller juice glass.  One serving of fruit is usually the size of a yo-yo.  Always choose a piece of whole fruit over juice.  Its fiber and fluid content will help to fill you up and curb your appetite.

Whole grains including breads, cereals, pasta and brown rice fill another ¼ of your plate.  The whole grain serving equals the size of a CD.  Whole grains are heart healthy foods that provide soluble fiber to help control cholesterol levels.  But serving sizes can be deceptive.  For example, one large bagel equals four servings which then translate into four times the calories.

Eat a variety of proteins each week.  Choose lean meats, poultry (without skin), eggs and fatty fish providing omega 3s.  Nuts, yogurt, cheese and beans are additional protein sources.  Keep portion sizes small and similar in size to a deck of cards.

Make snacks a part of your day, but control the calorie content to 200 calories or less.
Three cups of air-popped popcorn sprinkled with three tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese provides fiber, fullness and under 200 calories.  Prepare your snacks by carefully measuring the contents.  Avoid snacking out of large multiple serving packages to control calorie intake.

Fill your plate before sitting at the table and only place a serving dish of vegetables or salad at the table.  Second servings are then in your control.

Limit alcohol as it contains a significant amount of calories and may reduce your resolve to eat healthfully.  Alternate alcoholic drinks with glasses of water.

Savor that piece of dark chocolate as a reward for your mindful eating!

Lastly, you must “move it to lose it”.  Healthy eating is one half of the equation, the other half is exercise.  Choose your favorite activity be it walking, dancing, spinning, aerobics, Zumba, etc.  Make exercise a priority in your daily routine.

Roberta Gill, Registered Dietician
Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

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