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March 6, 2012

Get your plate in shape

March is National Nutrition Month, and this year's theme is "Get Your Plate in Shape," referring to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's most recent campaign, Choose My Plate, or My Plate.

The initiative advocates organizing your plate so it is at least half vegetables and fruits and one quarter each of grains and protein, with low-fat dairy on the side. My Plate is a simplified version of My Pyramid, which was released about six years ago. While both advocate a very similar eating pattern, the plate is an easier way to visualize what a healthy diet should look like.

START SMALL

The easiest way to adopt My Plate is by taking a few small steps. If you feel your household has a ways to go toward reaching My Plate standards, you can start by serving all food groups for at least one meal a day. Dinner is usually our largest meal and the time we gather with family or friends, so I will use that as an example.

If you make too many adjustments at once, it can be hard to maintain the change, so start with a dinner you would already typically serve, such as pizza and wings. The food may feature some tomato sauce and cheese, but pizza is mostly crust, so it would count as a grain on your plate. If you are filling only one quarter of your plate with pizza, that would probably equal just one slice, which will leave you hungry if you are not eating something else, too. Because the wings should fill only another quarter of the plate, you would probably get two or three. That leaves you with another half of your plate to fill. Start adding vegetables — maybe carrots and celery sticks — to fill another quarter and then pineapple rings for the remaining fruit portion.

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