March is National Nutrition Month and the American Dietetic Association is encouraging everyone to get their plate in shape. Doing that shaping includes getting rid of some foods and replacing them with better choices.
“When people eat foods that have added sugars and solid fats, they are consuming extra calories they don’t need,” says registered dietitian and Academy Spokesperson Angela Ginn. “These ‘empty calories’ are found in a number of foods and drinks and offer little-to-no nutritional benefits.”
“It is smart to look for foods that have no added sugars, like unsweetened apple sauce or unsweetened whole-grain cereals,” Ginn says.
- Drink water throughout the day. For variety, add lemons, limes or cucumbers to your water or try carbonated water.
- Choose low-fat or fat-free milk or 100-percent fruit juices.
- Eat fresh fruit salad for dessert.
Eat fewer foods that are high in solid fats.
“Solid fats can increase your risk for heart disease,” Ginn says. “You can reduce this risk by choosing healthier oils and lean meats.”
- Instead of regular ground beef, opt for extra-lean ground beef. Ground turkey and chicken are also available in lean options.
- Grill, broil, bake or steam your foods instead of frying.
- Cook with healthy oils like olive, canola and sunflower oils in place of hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils.
- Opt for fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese.
Cut back on sodium.
“Much of the sodium we eat comes from prepared meals and foods eaten away from home. This can be significantly reduced by eating fresh foods,” Ginn says.
- Instead of salt, use herbs and spices to season foods, and avoid salting food before tasting it.
- Do not add salt when cooking pasta, rice and vegetables.
- Read the Nutrition Facts Panel to compare sodium content of foods such as soups, broths, breads and frozen dinners, and choose the healthiest option.
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meats, poultry and fish, beans and peas, unsalted nuts, eggs and low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt.
Ginn also recommends cooking different dishes at home. “This allows you to control what you put in your meal,” she says.
For more information on how to “Get Your Plate in Shape,” visit the Academy’s National Nutrition Month website for a variety of helpful tips, fun games, promotional tools and nutrition education resources.