Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Guest Post - Nutrition Round Up: The National Nutrition Month Edition (PART 1)

Factual Fridays Guest Post on Healthy Men Today (Friday, March 4, 2011)

PART 1: Add One New Color to Your Plate Every Week

Eat Right With Color. That is this year’s theme for National Nutrition Month. Over the month of March I’ll share some of my favorite tips that help make small changes in the colors of your plate that can lead to BIG benefits. This week’s post includes tips that can help you add one new color to your plate per week this month (that’s 4 extra servings of fruits and vegetables if you start this weekend!).

Half of Your Plate = Fruits and Veggies

The new 2010 Dietary Guidelines were released on January 31, 2011. As part of these guidelines, the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services released tips for consumers. Among these: make HALF your plate fruits and vegetables. You can do this in many creative ways. Here are a few of the tips that I have used to implement this in my life:
  • Adding seasonal fruit to breakfast every morning
  • Switching from a side salad at lunch to an entrée salad (more veggies, not more dressing)
  • Keep easily transported fruit (i.e. bananas, apples, pears, grapes, kiwis, citrus fruits) with you through the day for snacks
  • Focusing on a vegetarian entrée for dinner several nights a week
  • Shrinking meat portions (or replacing them with a plant-based protein)
  • Browse the produce aisle for easy pre-made fruit salads, chopped salads, and healthy veggie side dishes that you can take with you on-the-go
  • Try a new fruit or vegetable
What’s On Your Plate? Spin that Color Wheel

More than just overall fruit and vegetable tips, it’s important to focus on colors. Each color (green, orange/yellow, blue/purple, red, and white/tan/brown) provides unique benefits. Start by thinking about your typical plate for dinner. Does it include all of the colors of the rainbow (including the clouds at the end!)?

For a helpful list (and a really fun challenge for the month of March) see Inspired RD’s blog post from this week.

Completing that Rainbow

Once you’ve determined which color(s) is/are missing, pick a color to add this week. In addition to the tips above, you can also use resources that help you add color to your meals and snacks.

The simplest option is to add fresh produce to meals and snacks you already have planned. If you’re not sure where to start, try getting the smallest box at your local CSA as a trial box. This is a common practice for many CSAs and will help you experiment with fruits and vegetables you’ve never tried before. Even better, most CSAs include recipe ideas with their produce boxes. This is also a great opportunity to focus on local foods and help local businesses. Even if you live in a colder winter area, many of these CSAs are about to come out of hibernation!

Frozen produce is a great option if the fresh produce section of your local supermarket or a CSA is not an option. Frozen fruits and vegetables are a great way to get added colors that may be hard to find in your area and have equivalent nutrition. This also means that you can find many foods year-round, reaping their benefits. Try organic when you can (usually only a marginal increase in price).

Canned fruits and vegetables are also an option. If you think this is the only change you will make, go for it! Any change is a good change. 

You can add a new recipe with the color you chose. There are many sites with healthy food recipes, but a few of my favorites are here, here, and especially here. There are great healthy snack ideas, too!

I hope this blog post helps you get started by trying at least one new fruit or vegetable this week (especially if it’s a color not normally on your plate). I hope you’ll share your adventures with me and keep adding a new color every week this month. In the coming weeks I’ll explore ways to help your kids eat more colorful plates, what all these colors in your foods mean, and how to sustain a more colorful plate beyond the month of March.

Happy eating!

Jenn Jackson, MPH 
The Nutrition Nerd

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