Rethink Your Plate
Fall is the perfect time to upgrade your plate. Think about all the colorful and nutrient dense produce one can find at the local farmer’s market, grocery store, or garden. Improving nutrition and eating healthier doesn’t have to be inconvenient, boring or expensive. The visual of a plate can serve as a daily reminder to be more thoughtful about daily food choices. Start today by taking advantage of the local bounty and take one small step to transform your health by adding more wholesome foods to your plate.
The Harvard Healthy Plate is a general guideline for creating healthy, balanced meals consisting of nutrient dense foods that are a rich source of macronutrients (lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats) and a variety of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Keep your plate or lunch box proportioned with whole, minimally processed foods that support healthy eating. These guidelines are not based on specific calorie amounts, nor are they meant to prescribe a certain number of calories, but rather guide you to make a balanced plate of deliciousness!
· Protein: Make 1/4 of your plate a lean protein at each meal. Fish, chicken, beans, and nuts are all healthy options and can be adaptable to any meal or time of day. They can be mixed into salads and pair well with vegetables on a plate. Limit red meat and avoid processed meats such as bacon or sausage.
· Healthy Fats: What are the healthy fats? Healthy fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Try to choose these sources of fat over saturated fats, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as olive and canola oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate. Fats to avoid are saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fats include those that come from animal sources and fats that are solid at room temperature.
· Whole Grains: Make 1/4 of your plate whole grains. This includes 100% whole-wheat bread, whole-grain pasta, and brown rice. Limit intake of refined grains like white rice, white bread, and products made with white flour. Whole grains are a great source of fiber and consuming more dietary fiber promotes bowel health and weight loss, as well as decreases the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Aim to get at least 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber per day.
· Fruits and Vegetables: Aim for ½ of your plate vegetables and fruits. Vegetables are super foods that pack a powerful nutritious punch! In fact, when rethinking your plate, think of the vegetables as the main event! A recent study suggested patients who consumed 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature death. Eat the rainbow - especially non-starchy vegetables!
· Drinks: Drink water and skip sweetened beverages. This includes juice, soda, and other sugary drinks. Drinking black coffee and unsweetened iced tea is fine, but keep in mind that adding sugar will contribute to your daily sugar intake.
Making better food choices is about improving health and wellbeing without cutting out major food groups or eliminating dessert. This is a component of a healthy lifestyle that can be sustained over the course of a lifetime. Start by making small changes to your plate and over time new habits will form. Rethinking your plate can help you be healthier now and in the future.
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Learn more about the Harvard Healthy Plate nutrition guideline.