I remember my nutritional guidelines as a child; the food pyramid via America's standards for public schools circa 1995. It consisted of a TON of bread, pasta and grains, some fruits and veggies, a little meat and cheese and finally, reining supreme over all it's subjects at the tippy top, sugar & fats with “use sparingly” in tiny parenthesis. Sparingly? I didn't even know what that meant at that time. In my 8 year old mind, sugar was at the top, therefor sugar was like... like, the princess of all food!
Today, the new and improved model of nutrition is the plate.
The idea behind the plate, also known as "MyPlate" is that not only are fruits and vegetables taking up half the size of the plate, but also there is no section for fats and sugars. That category is now integrated into the other sections: sugars into fruit & fat into dairy. Of course, there are always exceptions such fish oils, coconut oils, EFAs & basically, all good fats, which can be found all over the board.
This model is much better, but in no way is it perfect. The truth is that everybody and every body is different. This is unavoidably apparent today with so many special dietary needs and restrictions; gluten free, dairy free, soy free, animal free, sugar free, etc. That's not even figuring into account preference and taste. It can be a real challenge sometimes to do what's best for you.
This new model is a better starting point for children, especially the decision to not give sugar its own category.
If I could I would go back in time and slap that "strawberry" frosted Pop-Tart out of my 2nd grade hand and give myself a slice of apple dipped in peanut butter... time travel is still just a wonderful dream, right?
The good news is that we're getting better. There's an overall communal awareness for health and nutrition that's fallen upon the our country's shoulder's like a warm and healing blanket. It seems that everyone is really taking their health and the health of their loved ones into their own hands to create households, neighborhoods and communities of caring and encouraging people who are determined to control the length and standard of their lives through good nutrition.
So how does one get their plate into shape when the shapes of the plates in question are all so different?
You're asking me personally?
Being someone who works, who plays, who lives and loves each day to the fullest, well, I'm sort of all over the place. Guaranteeing that I'm following any one's model with my daily nutritional is sort of a fruitless venture.
However, being that I am also determined to make my life into all it can be,
I do have 3 easy rules that I utilize daily as I figure out what I want to eat at any given moment.
1. Try to incorporate at least 1 vegetable into every meal
This effectively coincides with the MyPlate model's standards.
By including 1 or more vegetables per meal, you're ensuring good vitamins and nutrients with every single meal (this includes desert). Ways that I've found effective in doing this are:
2. START the day with an APPLE
- Replacing pasta & noodles with squash: spaghetti squash conveniently and seamlessly replaces spaghetti's higher calories and excess carbohydrates while sliced zucchini is excellent in place of lasagna noodles.
- Breakfast scrambles; fast, easy & filled with vegetables. On a good day, my breakfast looks more like a salad than an egg dish. One of my favorite skillet combinations includes mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes & goat cheese topped with a few slices of avocado.
- Veggies for dessert?; Organic kale braised in vegetable broth and topped with brown sugar, cranberries and pecans is a sweet and ultra satisfying way to enjoy a vegetable for dessert. Does that sound a little too much like worlds collide? Try our recipe for Maple Sweet Potato Bites and see if that doesn't sooth your gnashing sweet tooth.
As a child who dreaded a visit to the doctor just as much as she dreaded a visit from death, I took the phrase "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" very seriously. very serious indeed. The list of apples wonderful properties goes on and on including its high fiber, low calorie nutrition detail and heart health benefits (aside being the only weapon I had against the man in the white coat who's mission in life was to give me a shot for absolutely no reason).
Here is a neat little comprehensive list of 6 Serious Heath Benefits of Apples. 1 Apple counts as 1 serving of fruit and makes me feel less hungry in the morning so that I can make a more conscious decision when I go to pick my breakfast.
& My third and absolute law...
3. When it comes to dessert, I give myself 1 sugar-fest per week!
This is my favorite rule.
I tell myself each week, "Okay self, you get immunity to pig out on a sweet treat 1 time this week."
I always want to wait for the weekend because that's when all the fun stuff happens, so during the week to fix my sugar craving I'll eat a handful of blueberries or raspberries
(so I get my fruit serving in the morning and at night).
If something comes along during the week that I simply can not resist
( if a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie magically dances into my office and whispers "it's now or never..." I might be a little scared but you KNOW I'd eat that!), than that's it!
The reason this works so well for me is that it gives me semi-strict guidelines,
but it also gives me room to make a choice to eat sort of junky.
It's not about making yourself feel bad for eating a piece of red velvet cake.
It's about giving yourself healthy restrictions and trying to get your body used to not even wanting sugar.
The worst thing people can do is get down on themselves for eating something that they probably shouldn't. Hey! We're human! And thanks to the culinary captains (as I like to call them) of the health food world, there are many options so that we don't have to fall so hard when we take a dip in the dessert pool.
The best part of this rule is that when that moment comes that your face to face with the white whale of chocolate gooeyness that you've been holding out for all week, if you still even want it at that point, there's no guilt.
You promised yourself it and now you can really enjoy it without the words, "I shouldn't be eating this" chanting in your head.
It is important to treat your body with good food and a balanced diet, but seeing as how we're not machines (At least I know I'm not) you've got to treat yourself as person as well.
This is how I attempt to get my plate into shape for National Nutrition Month, but what's your secret?
We want to know what you've done to reach optimum nutrition for you and your loved ones.
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We hope today finds you in excellent health and happiness!