The US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Health published new nutritional guidelines in December, like every five years, based on the latest scientific findings. Following these guidelines will help us improve our health, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and meet nutritional needs.
March happens to be National Nutrition Month, with a special focus on preparing healthy meals that take into account our cultural and personal food preferences. It’s a great time to marry the two messages to promote healthy eating: Personalize your plate and Make Every Bite Count With The Nutritional Guidelines For Americans.
The Nutritional guidelines Offer four key recommendations to make counting each bite easier:
- Follow a healthy diet at every stage of life. A nutritional regimen includes the combination of foods and beverages that you normally eat. Almost everyone, regardless of their state of health, can benefit from changes that lead to healthier eating habits. The MyPlate graphic is a good example of a healthy diet.
- My favorite of the four recommendations: consider your personal preferences, cultural traditions and budget. In other words, personalize your plate! Our eating habits are influenced by our preferences and culture, so we should strive to honor this by making these traditional foods a part of our healthy diet. Below are some examples of traditional and nutritious foods served in a healthy pattern. Can you imagine what kind of cuisine they represent? (Answers can be found at the end of this article.)
- Breakfast – bitter melon with eggs, mantou (steamed bun) and soy milk
- Breakfast – Beans and Rice with Sliced Tomatoes, Boiled Egg, and Plantains (Note: As a Latina, this is my favorite.)
- Lunch – Pancit Bihon (sauteed vegetables, rice noodles with shrimp or chicken) and additional vegetables
Lunch – A bowl of leafy greens of your choice, sliced vegetables, beans or tofu, fruits, nuts, and cooked grains
- Dinner – Bhindi Masala (sauteed spicy okra, onions and tomatoes) with dal (lentils) and whole wheat roti (bread)
- Dinner – Grilled Chicken, Koresh Badejan (Eggplant and Tomato Stew), Brown Rice, Pomegranate, and Yogurt
And let’s not forget tasty and nutritious snacks like baba ganoush with bread, a licuado (fruit smoothie) made from milk, boiled kamote (yams) with a glass of soy milk and roasted chickpeas, to name a few. (Check out the extensions Chef Suzy’s video how to do this.)
These foods are just a small snapshot of the delicious and healthy contributions that the world’s cultures have to offer. For handouts and tips on specific cuisines, see the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics National Nutrition Month Toolkit.
- Focus on meeting the needs of food groups with nutritious foods and beverages, and stick to calorie limits. Nutrient dense means that a food or drink is filled with useful nutrients based on how many calories it provides, how much it weighs, or how many harmful nutrients it contains. An egg is an example of a nutrient-dense food, as are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, beans, peas and lentils, unsalted nuts and seeds, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and poultry.
- Limit your intake of added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limit alcoholic beverages. High intake of foods and beverages that are high in sugar, fat, salt, and alcohol can be detrimental to our health and are usually also high in calories. The 85/15 is a good guide to making every bite count: 85% of your calories should come from nutrient-rich sources, and the other 15% can contain a little of the things you should be limiting.
To get you started, you can set goals, track your progress, and earn badges as you make positive changes with the Start Simple with the MyPlate app. Of course, you can learn more about healthy eating by taking an extension course, reading a health and nutrition publication, watching an instructional video, and much more at healthy life section the extension website. Here it is important that every bite counts!
Answers on the types of cuisine: (1) Chinese, (2) Latin American, (3) Filipino, (4) Vegetarian, although many cultures offer delicious vegetarian dishes, (5) Asian-Indian, and (6) Middle East.