Healthy Eating Tips

By Pamela A. Williams, MPH, R.D.

Photo by Dreamstime

Not too long ago, nutritionists used the Food Guide Pyramid to help us understand how to eat a healthy diet. Although it was an effective tool, sometimes it required a little explanation to make sense of it. Now we have a new guide that is easy to look at and understand what we must do. My Plate Food Guide is a simple illustration that teaches us to:

• Eat from the five food groups. Here’s the breakdown: Red is for fruits, green is for vegetables, orange is for grains, purple is for proteins and blue is for dairy and other products that provide calcium. By eating from these groups, we can get vitamins, minerals, fats, fiber, protein and phytochemicals or plant chemicals that keep us healthy.

• Control our portion sizes. Instead of a plate piled with rice, 12-ounce steak and a slice of tomato, we can have a cup of vegetables, a cup of fruit, a cup of rice and four ounces of protein such as fish or tofu. The latter meal will give you the array of nutrients needed.

• Make half our plate fruits and veggies. What a visual! Traditional eating these days may leave a small corner for veggies and perhaps a couple slices of apple on the plate. But My Plate shows us that half of our plate should come from the garden. Why is this important? Produce gives us a steady supply of the nutrients we need with a healthy supply of fiber and healthy fats. They are also low to moderate in calories and supply plant chemicals such as lycopene that is thought to lower the risk of prostate cancer.

Other messages such as eating whole grains, sometimes choosing vegetable proteins such as beans and tofu, and getting enough calcium in our diets also keep us on the healthy track. Couple these messages with a good physical activity program and a good supply of water and we’re on our way to keeping chronic diseases at bay.

If you would like to learn more about how to make your plate healthy, visit ChooseMyPlate and healthy eating to you!

Basic Sample Menu*

Bowl of oatmeal with raisins
Glass of lowfat milk
1 fruit – peach, pear, etc.

Sandwich made with whole wheat bread, lettuce, tomatoes, sliced cucumbers and 3 ounces of protein such as turkey or a vegetarian patty    
Yogurt made with fresh berries

Lasagna made with protein, cheese & zucchini and whole grain pasta
Glass of lowfat milk
Peanut butter cookie

*Peanut butter and bread, nuts & fruit, hummus and crackers make great snacks in between meals if needed.