March is National Nutrition Month, a time to kick start your goals for getting fit, feeling great, and looking good. And this year the National Nutrition Month campaign honors MyPlate, the latest set of healthy eating guidelines developed by the US government. Every five years, a panel of nutrition scientists and experts gets together to review the current science, our eating behavior, and diet-related health problems in order to come up with a plan to promote a healthy diet for Americans. And it’s no surprise that we have a long way to go as a nation—we’re suffering from high levels of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. This is particularly clear when we consider the impact of obesity among children. Nearly one-third of children and teens are obese or overweight, putting them at risk for a laundry list of health and social problems in their future. Obese kids are on track to live a shorter life riddled with diseases such as type 2 diabetes, face lower employment and income levels, and receive higher health care bills.
Enter MyPlate—a simple image of what your dinner plate should look like. And the first thing you’ll probably notice about MyPlate is that your plate should be filled mostly with plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lentils and beans. The morale of the story: meat no longer has to be at the center of your plate; you’re better off focusing on plant foods, which are naturally rich in all of the “good” stuff, like vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, and naturally low in all of the “bad” stuff, like saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, and sodium.
So, how can you get your dinner plate in shape? Here are my top plant-based tips:
Sharon Palmer, RD, dietitian, writer, and author of The Plant-Powered Diet (The Experiment, 2012)
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