Get your plate in shape, and your body just might follow

  • Tue Mar 13th, 2012 7:19pm

<b>YOUR HEALTH | </b>By Katie Murdoch Herald writer

The steps toward getting one’s body into shape can start with getting your plate there first.

The national Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is encouraging consumers to be mindful of what they put on their plate during its annual National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme is “Get Your Plate in Shape.”

It bolsters the 2010 “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” which pushes for including more fruits and vegetables and being wary of portion sizes. The guidelines are consistent with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate, which replaced the MyPyramid, to offer a visual aid for how much of each food group to consume.

Nutrition Month focuses on letting consumers make informed choices, said Joy Dubost, Academy spokeswoman.

“This year’s theme helps people develop sound eating habits,” Dubost said.

The way the message is delivered is important too. People want to make better choices and are looking for answers, Dubost said. “They want to hear it in a positive manner: what can they eat?”

The message is being repeated.

Health professionals at Swedish/Edmonds incorporate the message of being mindful of portion size and aiming to represent at least three of the food groups on one’s plate.

Megan Ellison, a registered dietician, and Kathryn Prichard, registered dietician and certified diabetes educator, teach community nutrition classes. Prichard encourages patients to get variety on their plate and to plan meals. Planning means food will be available to prepare and people will avoid pitfalls like dining out when they are stressed and hungry and have nothing to eat at home.

“At 4 p.m. if you’re hungry and stressed and your spouse asks, ‘What’s for dinner?’ it can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” she said.

The plate method is a simple way to help people balance their portions and food groups, Prichard said.

“People feel better (because) foods work together,” she said.

The MyPlate graphic is a simple tool to help.

Ellison also instructs patients to incorporate more high fiber foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grain which makes portion control easier.

“I like to focus on what people can add to their diets, rather than what people should be reducing, as this tends to work better from a behavior change standpoint and usually gets at both sides of the issue,” she said.

Plate pointers

Here are a few tips for shaping up your plate:

• Think “plate” not “platter” and aim for a 9-inch diameter.

• Make half of your plate colorful fruits and/or vegetables.

• Make at least half of your grains whole instead of refined (e.g., brown rice, whole wheat bread).

• Choose lean proteins to cut down on saturated fat, calories and cholesterol and limit protein to a quarter of your plate. Aim for at least 2-3 servings of fish and/or seafood per week. And don’t forget about good plant-based sources of protein such as beans and nuts.

• Augment with dairy, such as topping broccoli with a sprinkle of shredded cheese or a spoonful of plain yogurt on a baked potato. Aim for a lower fat version for your dairy products.

• Use between-meal snacks to obtain the food groups you may have missed during your meals.

Source: Megan Ellison, Swedish/Edmonds dietitian