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Reflect on Your Food choices During National Nutrition Month

food choices, National Nutrition Month, MyPlate, nutrition

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Community Wellness

Do you know how many servings of vegetables you should be getting every day? Do you know where your food fits based on My Plate? If you need help answering these questions, just find a Beulah or Hazen 5th grade student and they can help you. These students are participating in a program called “On the Move to Better Health.” The program is a five-week school-based curriculum based on My Plate; the current USDA icon for good nutrition.

Only 25 percent of the U.S. population consumes adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables.

Does that percentage include you? If not, that’s OK. Small changes can add up to big improvements in our health. 

Socially, we have become invested in health and nutrition. You hear about the next best diet on the local news station, your Facebook friend sells a new product, and meanwhile, someone tells you that sugar is the key to living longer. We are consumed by several different recommendations and guidelines, so how do we know what we should really be eating?

Nutrition is a science. The topic is consistently being researched to ensure optimal health. One thing we do know is that a magic pill and cure-all diets just do not exist. Finding reliable sources is important when looking for nutritional advice.

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture created a guide to healthful eating called My Plate (www.choosemyplate.gov). The guide separates the plate into five categories, which represent all the food groups. The five groups are fruit, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.

Despite the fact that you should eat from all the food groups, you should put an emphasis on fruits and vegetables. Healthful eating patterns that include vegetables and fruit are associated with a decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Half of your plate should be filled with an array of colorful fruits and vegetables. Fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits and vegetables all count in helping us meet that guideline.

Fruits and vegetables add flavor and texture to a meal. Fruit is naturally sweet and can reduce the amount of added sugar sources you consume. Vegetables taste great in cold or hot dishes, and make a delicious snack and an easy side dish.

During March, which is National Nutrition Month, reflect on the food you typically eat. Where could you add in extra fruits and vegetables? Start with one meal at a time and focus on including more produce in place of other less healthful options.

Here are some ideas to help you increase your fruit and vegetable intake:

  • For safety, rinse all produce under running water before cutting. 
  • Keep colorful fruit and vegetables where you can see and grab them easily for an on-the-go snack.
  • Blend fruits and vegetables into a smoothie.
  • Replace chips with a crunchy vegetable and low-fat dressing.

Habits are formed early. Parents are responsible for offering their children nutritious foods to fuel healthy bodies and minds.

For more information, contact the Mercer County Extension Office at 701-873-5195.  Website: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/mercercountyextension. 

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