According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it’s important to increase your focus on fruits and vegetables and your understanding of proper portion sizes. A properly balanced plate can provide the nutrients you need with fewer calories and less fat—and still taste great. To help, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) offers suggestions on how to “Get Your Plate in Shape.”
Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.
• Whether fresh, frozen or canned, a variety of vegetables—especially dark-green, red and orange vegetables, plus beans and peas—is an important part of your diet. Choose “reduced sodium” or “no-salt-added” canned vegetables.
• Add fruits to meals and snacks. Buy fresh fruits and those that are dried, frozen or canned in water or 100 percent juice.
Make at least half your grains whole.
• Choose 100 percent whole-grain breads, cereals, crackers, pasta and brown rice.
• Check the ingredients list on food packages to find whole-grain foods.
Drink fat-free or low-fat milk.
• Fat-free and low-fat milk have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk but less fat and fewer calories.
• If you’re lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk or a calcium-fortified soy beverage.
Vary your protein choices.
• The protein food group in¬cludes seafood, nuts and beans, as well as lean meat, poultry and eggs.
• Twice a week, make seafood the protein on your plate and keep meat and poultry portions small and lean.
Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars.
• Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Choose 100 percent fruit juice instead of fruit-flavored drinks.
• Compare sodium in foods and choose those with lower numbers. Add spices or herbs to season food instead of salt.
• Switch from solid fats to oils when preparing food.
“Foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean-protein foods contain the nutrients you need without too many calories,” explains registered dietitian and Academy spokesperson Andrea Giancoli. She also recommends avoiding oversized portions by using a smaller plate, bowl or glass.
For more information on getting your plate in shape, visit www.eatright.org.