Most Americans do not have enough fruits and vegetables in their diets. According to a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) study in 2015, only 12 percent of adults ate enough fruit and only 9 percent of the adult population ate the recommended amount of vegetables. The numbers are even lower for adolescents.
But it doesn’t need to be that way. During National Nutrition Month in March, it’s a good time to revisit the USDA’s educational “ChooseMyPlate” dietary guideline, to make sure you’re getting enough fruits and vegetables in your diet.
In today’s fast-paced world, you may think it’s difficult to learn more about healthy eating. But it doesn’t take much – the ChooseMyPlate.gov website includes plenty of information, printable materials, downloadable PDFs and more that are useful for adults. There are even games and coloring tasks for children to help them get engaged at an early age. The materials are all in the public domain, and you don’t need permission to print, reproduce or use them. So, spread them among your family and friends.
ChooseMyPlate also has information that is specific to certain people. There are also tips about enjoying your food but eating less; strengthening your bones; drinking water; eating more whole grains; learning about nutrition facts and ingredient labels; finding healthy recipes and getting active.
Because men’s energy needs are different from women’s needs, there are also tips for men about healthy eating and lifestyle. In the men’s tips, you’ll learn that “magic foods do not exist,” meaning there’s no magic food or magic way to eat. Instead, there are foods that both men and women need to be healthy, as well as nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, fiber and protein needed in diets.
The USDA also suggests men “build habits that don’t add pounds” by cutting out foods high in solid fats and added sugar, and to limit fatty meats like ribs, bacon and hot dogs.
For families with children, there are a number of simple ways to help your children get a healthy, nutritious start in life. You may have heard about “eating a rainbow,” a modern twist on the old food pyramid. It simply means making sure your plate, and your child’s plate, has a “rainbow” of different color foods on it. That includes having a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
Families can also sit down once a week and plan family meals together. Parents can use the time to teach children about food selection, preparation of various foods and basic cooking skills. You can get together shopping lists, and enhance math skills by talking about budgets and quantities.
With the prevalence of food sites on the Internet, you can also find new, healthy recipes to make together. Look for meals that fit your palate and your lifestyle. Consider trying a new recipe every week or every month, to keep your meals fresh and evolving. Pick an international region and find a recipe that intrigues your family. Learn more about the country’s history, people and culture while making the meal.
TheMyPlate concept is based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy and nutrition education activities, providing food-based recommendations to promote health, help prevent diet-related disease and meet nutrient needs. USDA and HHS jointly publish the Dietary Guidelines every 5 years. New guidelines are under development for 2020-2025.