During National Nutrition Month and beyond, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to include healthy foods from all food groups. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products contain the nutrients we need to maintain healthy lifestyles. Make sure your eating plan includes foods from all the food groups and in appropriate portions. USDA’s MyPlate is a great tool to help us be mindful of the foods that make up our balanced eating plan.

They offer these recommendations to “Get Your Plate in Shape”:

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

• Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green, red and orange varieties, as well as beans and peas.

• When buying canned vegetables, choose “reduced sodium” or “no salt added”

whenever possible. Rinsing beans, corn and peas can also reduce sodium levels.

• Dried and frozen fruits and those canned in water or their own juice are good options when fresh varieties are not available.

• Make sure every meal and snack has at least one fruit or vegetable or both.

Make at least half your grains whole.

• Choose brown rice, barley and oats and other whole grains for your sides and ingredients.

• Switch to 100-percent whole-grain breads, cereals and crackers.

• Check the ingredients list on food packages to find foods that are made with whole grains.

Switch to 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 are lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk or a calcium-fortified soy beverage.

Vary your protein choices.

• Eat a variety of foods each week from the protein food group like seafood, nuts and beans, as well as lean meat, poultry and eggs.

• Eat more plant-based proteins such as nuts, beans, whole grains and whole soy foods like tofu and edamame.

• At least twice a week, make fish and seafood the protein on your plate.

• Keep meat and poultry portions lean and limit to three ounces per meal. That’s about the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards.

Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars.

• Drink water instead of sugary drinks like regular sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and sweetened teas and coffees. Choose 100-percent fruit juice.

• Compare sodium in foods and choose those with the least amount listed on the

Nutrition Facts Panel.

• Season foods with spices or herbs instead of salt.

• Select lean cuts of meat or poultry and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.

• Use heart-healthy oils like olive, canola and sunflower oil in place of butter or shortening when cooking.

Make an effort to cook more meals at home, where you are in control of what is in your food. And don’t forget that exercise and healthful eating are important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Choose activities you enjoy like going for a walk with your family, joining a sports team, dancing or playing with your children. If you don’t have a full 30 minutes, carve out 10 minutes three times a day. Every bit adds up and health benefits increase the more active you are.

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics


Mouth Watering Meatloaf

1 pound lean ground beef

½ onion, chopped (about ½ cup)

1 cup grated carrots (about 2 carrots)

½ cup dry quick oats

¼ cup nonfat milk

1 egg

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup ketchup, divided (¼ cup in meatloaf and ¼ cup in sauce)

2 tablespoons brown sugar or white sugar

Preheat oven to 350° F. Mix together the ground beef, onion, carrots, oats, milk, egg, black pepper, salt, and ¼ cup ketchup. Form the mixture into a loaf and place on pan. Bake for 50 minutes. Stir the remaining ¼ cup ketchup and sugar in a small bowl. Remove meatloaf from oven and spread the sauce over the top and sides of meatloaf. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 160°F.

Yield: 6 servings

Sandra R. Cain is the Extension agent for Family and Consumer Sciences in Bladen County.
Get your plate in shape