Have a Plant: Fruits & Veggies for Better Health

Insider's Viewpoint: Expert Supermarket Advice: Enjoy Your Food! Karen Hawkins, DECA. Fruits And Veggies More Matters.org

Enjoy your food—just eat less and make half your plate fruits and vegetables, are just two of the simple messages in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans geared toward helping you maintain a healthier lifestyle. The guidelines are science-based and offer advice for healthy Americans, ages 2 and older, about making food choices that help promote health and reduce risk of disease.

Calorie-Balance Equation

According to the guidelines, it really is about balancing how much and what you eat along with physical activity. A simple way to remember it is, "calories in, calories out."

To maintain or to help achieve a healthy weight, the number of calories you take in needs to equal calories expended. If you want to lose weight, the amount of calories you burn or use for energy must be more than the calories you take in.

The Role of Your Environment

The guidelines also include how your environment affects both sides of the calorie-balance equation. Your environment can promote eating too many calories and discourage you from any physical activity thus calorie expenditure. All too often the food closest to us is food that has lots of calories, so making informed choices is the key to having a healthy lifestyle.

Many portion sizes available have also increased over the years. Research has shown that when larger portion sizes are served, people tend to take in more calories. In addition, the evidence shows that portion size is associated with body weight. If you are served and eat smaller portions, chances are you will be able to lose weight.

3 Key Points

    • Balancing Calories. Enjoy your food but eat less, and avoid oversized portions. Tip: Use a smaller plate for meals at home and when you go out, get a to-go box at the beginning of a meal and put half the food in it before you begin eating.
    • Foods to Increase. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables! Also, gradually switch from whole milk to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk over a two-week period.
    • Foods to Reduce. Try to choose foods like soup, bread and frozen meals that have no more than 400-500 milligrams of sodium per serving. Drink water and add lemon, orange, lime or cucumber slices to enhance the flavor without adding extra calories.

These are just some of the helpful tips from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. To create a personalized meal plan, check out MyPyramid.gov, where you can plan and assess your food choices based on the guidelines.

Lt. Col Karen Hawkins, MA, RD, LD
Dietitian
DECA

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