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Personalize Your Plate – It’s All About You!

March is National Nutrition Month, and this year’s theme is “Personalize Your Plate” (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2021). Meals and snacks are so much more enjoyable when it includes food or beverages we love to consume. How do you strike the balance between your favorite flavors and your health while including your family’s traditions all within your budget?

Nutrient Needs 

If you are unsure about what food and beverages and how much you should be consuming to maintain good health, check out MyPlate Plan to get a personalized plan. When you visit the site, you will be asked to enter your age, gender, height and weight, and your current physical activity level. From here, it will generate a food plan to maintain your current weight based on the information you enter. The personalized plan will provide you with the specifics like how much you need from each food group and how much per day to maintain your current weight.

Include Your “Wants”

What you love to eat is important when personalizing your meals. Sometimes we may need to rein in our choices a bit; however, avoid depriving yourself of things you truly enjoy. Be mindful and consider your portion sizes. Some “wants” don’t always fall into one of the food groups or support a healthy diet. These are considered discretionary calories or calories that aren’t nutrient dense. In all healthy eating patterns, it is recommended to limit calories coming from discretionary calories which include those from added sugars, saturated fats, and alcohol. For example: A personalized food plan at 1,800 calories per day would recommend no more than 8% of the calories (140) coming from these other sources (added sugars, saturated fats, and alcohol).  The best approach is to choose nutrient dense options most often and plan for the occasional “wants” that don’t quite fit in to your healthy eating plan.

Cultural Traditions and Customs

Why do we eat the foods we eat? Our meals are often influenced by culture, tradition, and customs. What’s so great is that you can still honor these important parts of who you are and still consume a healthy diet. Yes, this may mean you need to alter recipes just a tad; however, the overall flavor can be maintained. There are many online resources and digital cookbooks that provide healthier versions of traditional foods. Plan your plate based on the food groups recommended in your personalized plan and incorporate your families’ culture, traditions, and customs.

Keeping Your Budget in Mind

Did you know that “Americans throw away billions of pounds of food each year?” (The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2021). One way to keep our budget in mind when personalizing our plate, is to find creative ways to reduce food waste. What foods do you commonly eat where a portion is often discarded? Could this discarded part be used in another way? Or perhaps it’s food we didn’t prepare, and it spoiled. This part comes down to planning. Check out what’s in your refrigerator and use items that may spoil first. Get creative so things don’t go to waste. My co-worker would anticipate and get a good laugh at my Friday lunches which were also known as  the “everything leftover in the fridge Friday meal.” It was such a hodge-podge of ingredients, but it served the purpose of nutrition and keeping food waste to a minimum.

Another way to keep budget in mind is to choose seasonal foods. These are often less expensive and are full of flavor. Check out Fresh from Florida® for what’s in season now along with a ton of recipes.

But wait – there’s more! Shop for fruits and vegetables at your local farmer’s market or one close by. They may even have incentive programs to double the value of your dollar when purchasing from their market. Another way “Personalize Your Plate” within your means is by adding a variety of food selections. Include fresh, frozen, canned, and dried to meet your budget while keeping your healthy choices in mind. Choose frozen and canned foods with lower sodium when possible. Another tip is to use beans as your protein. They are nutritious, delicious, and cost effective.

As you plan your meals, consider all the ways you can “Personalize Your Plate.” Include your favorite food and beverages, add in family culture and traditions, and plan for a variety of options while keeping your health in mind. Have fun discovering ways to reduce food waste and meet the needs of your wallet. Mealtime can be an exciting experience when you take time to plan and “Personalize Your Plate.”

Adapted from an original post, Wellness with Wendy e-news (March 10, 2021).
Author: Wendy W. Lynch.

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