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Get Your Plate in Shape in March

If you try to make your plate look like this, you're on your way to a healthier lifestyle.

"Get Your Plate in Shape" is the theme for the 2012 March National Nutrition Month, which is sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association).

To do this requires eating the nutritious foods that you enjoy while being aware of portion sizes and total calories. Eating should be pleasurable, but it is important to consider the amount of food eaten every day, according to Beth Reames, LSU AgCenter nutritionist. Here are some tips to eat fewer calories while savoring and enjoying food:

Be aware of your daily calorie needs. Learn how many calories you need every day by using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate. When planning your meals and snacks throughout the day, keep your calorie needs in mind. A simple way to do this is to think about the portions on your plate. Divide your plate in four sections with one each for whole grains, lean proteins, vegetables and fruits, and a side of dairy, such as a cup of low-fat milk or yogurt or an ounce of cheese.

Avoid oversized portions by using smaller plates, bowls and glasses. Instead of a 10-inch plate, switch to 8-inch or appetizer-sized plates, and you will automatically portion and eat less without feeling deprived. Pile your plate with nutrient-dense, lower-calorie foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein foods like beans, seafood, lean meat and poultry.

Take charge of your eating by cooking more at home. Cooking in your home kitchen not only allows you to balance what’s on your plate, but also enables you to choose healthier fats, less sodium and increase the fiber in your diet, while balancing the amount of calories you eat. Then, when you eat out, you'll be better able to recognize healthy portion sizes based on your experiences at home. Also, choose lower calorie menu options when dining out by focusing on vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Stack your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables. Compared with people who consume a diet with only small amounts of fruits and vegetables, those who eat more generous amounts as part of a healthy diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases including stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.

Watch out for liquid calories. The calories in fruit juices and drinks with added sugar, sports drinks, coffee beverages and soft drinks can add up fast. Also, think before you drink alcoholic beverages because they have calories too. Remember to drink alcohol sensibly. For those choosing to drink alcoholic beverages, the recommended intake is no more than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men. (A standard drink is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.)

Log in. Food logging can help keep track of the foods you eat and ensure you stay in your calorie limit. By being aware of everything you eat and drink, you'll be more likely to stick within your calorie range. Write down what you're eating throughout the day so that it's not such a big task to tackle at the end of the day, or use the USDA's Super Tracker, which analyzes your diet and physical activity. You'll likely eat less and enjoy your food more.

For additional information about USDA’s MyPlate and healthful eating, contact an extension agent in your local parish.

Learn more about the AgCenter’s Family Nutrition Program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The LSU AgCenter is one of 11 institutions of higher education in the Louisiana State University System. Headquartered in Baton Rouge, it provides educational services in every parish and conducts research that contributes to the economic development of the state. The LSU AgCenter does not grant degrees nor benefit from tuition increases. The LSU AgCenter plays an integral role in supporting agricultural industries, enhancing the environment, and improving the quality of life through nutrition education and 4-H youth, family and community programs.

Last Updated: 2/24/2012 4:13:01 PM

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