Allison Marshall, MS RD CDN CDE
This past summer, the US Department of Agriculture introduced a new nutrition guide to replace the longstanding food pyramid. The plate and cup icon, which is divided into the five food groups, highlights the importance of balanced meals that include lean protein, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and an abundance of fruits and vegetables. For many of us, this visual aid can simplify meal planning, without having to count calories or grams of fat. To get started on creating your plate, follow these guidelines provided below.
Step 1: Choose Your Protein
On this portion of the plate, add meat and meat substitutes. Healthy choices include:
- chicken or turkey without the skin
- fish such as tuna, salmon, cod, or catfish
- other seafood such as shrimp, clams, oysters, crab, or mussels
- lean cuts of beef and pork such as sirloin or pork loin
- tofu, eggs, low-fat cheese, nuts and nut butters, and beans
For most people, 3-4 oz. of protein at each meal is an appropriate serving.
Step 2: Fill up Your Plate with Vegetables
Some antioxidant rich choices include:
- spinach, carrots, lettuce, greens, cabbage, bok choy
- green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes
- vegetable juice, salsa, onion, cucumber, beets, okra
- mushrooms, peppers, turnip
- Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes
Buy fresh or frozen and eat them raw, lightly steamed or sautéed in olive oil, or quickly zapped in the microwave to retain vitamins and minerals.
Step 3: Add Fresh Fruit
Try to include a variety of fruits each week, including:
- Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries
- Citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruit, and pineapple
- Apples, pears, and bananas
- Peaches, grapes, and kiwi
A good guideline for serving sizes is 1 cup of cut fruit or 1 piece of fresh fruit.
Step 4: Pick Heart-Healthy Grains
- whole grain breads, such as whole wheat or rye
- cooked cereal such as oatmeal, or cold cereal that is high in fiber and low in sugar
- Brown rice, whole wheat pasta or whole wheat tortilla
Step 5: Choose Low-Fat Dairy
One serving counts as:
- 1 cup of low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, or soymilk
- 1 ½ ounces of natural cheese
- 2 ounces of processed cheese
Top off your balanced meals with plenty of water and other low-calorie or no-calorie beverages, along with at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days.