March is National Nutrition Month

Started in 1973, National Nutrition Month serves as a friendly reminder for Americans to eat healthy. A healthy diet can lead to increases in both physical and mental well-being. In this article, we are going to provide you with some interesting facts and go over simple ways to improve your diet.

From The Food Pyramid to MyPlate – A Brief History on Nutritional PSAs

Many of you probably remember the food pyramid. Officially deemed the Food Guide Pyramid by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1992, the food pyramid was meant to teach children the types and quantities of food groups they should be eating to maintain a healthy diet. In 2005, the Food Guide Pyramid was replaced by MyPyramid. MyPyramid expanded on the original food pyramid, providing parents, teachers, and children with updated nutrition facts and recommendations. Then in 2011, the USDA introduced MyPlate, the current nutritional guidelines encouraging American children to eat a healthy, balanced diet. And although the MyPlate campaign was created with children in mind, the dietary recommendations for adults are very similar.

MyPlate graphic from the USDA

What Should I Be Eating?

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a healthy diet should include:

  • Lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products
  • Lean meats, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and eggs
  • Small amounts of trans fats, added sugars, and sodium
older female grocery shopping for fruits

Grocery Shopping for a Healthy Diet

Using a shopping list and keeping a well-stocked kitchen can help reduce the time you spend cooking healthy meals. Read the labels as you shop, and pay attention to serving size and servings per container. Compare the total calories in similar products and choose the lowest calorie ones.

So, shop for quick, low-fat food items, and fill your kitchen cupboards with a supply of lower calorie basics like the following:

 

  • Fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese
  • Light or diet margarine
  • Egg whites/egg substitutes
  • Whole-wheat sandwich breads, bagels, pita bread, English muffins
  • Soft corn tortillas, low-fat flour tortillas
  • Low-fat, low-sodium crackers
  • Plain cereal, dry or cooked
  • Rice, pasta
  • White-meat chicken or turkey (remove skin)
  • Fish and shellfish (not battered)
  • Beef: round, sirloin, chuck arm, loin, and extra-lean ground beef
  • Pork: leg, shoulder, tenderloin
  • Dry beans and peas
  • Fresh, frozen, canned fruits in light syrup or juice
  • Fresh, frozen, or no-salt-added canned vegetables
  • Low-fat or fat-free salad dressings
  • Mustard and catsup
  • Jam, jelly, or honey
  • Herbs and spices
  • Salsa

NHLBI

Maintaining or Achieving a Healthy Weight

If you are at a healthy weight that you want to maintain, around 2000 calories per day is still the recommended benchmark, although this number is slightly lower for females. For those of you trying to lose weight, the recommended daily calorie intake varies depending on the amount of weight you want to lose. Generally, eating 500 – 750 calories less every day can help you to lose up to 1 ½ pounds per week.

The body mass index (BMI) measures body fat in correlation to height and weight, and can provide you with a good idea as to your ideal healthy weight. Interested in finding out your BMI? You can use this BMI Calculator from NHLBI.

 
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