When it comes to success in school, eating right is as important as getting a good night's sleep. In fact, educating children about healthful eating may be one of the most important gifts you can give them. That's why this issue of Class Ideas is celebrating National Nutrition Month.
We hope you'll find this month's article, downloadable activities, Internet links, and product specials helpful in crafting a unit about eating right for health!
"One of the ways to incorporate color into your healthful eating plan is to include the colors of MyPyramid," says registered dietitian and ADA Spokesperson Melinda Johnson. "Developed by the United States Department of Agriculture, MyPyramid is part of an overall food guidance system that emphasizes the need for an individual approach to improving diet and lifestyle."
Each color of the MyPyramid symbol represents the recommended proportion of foods from each food group and focuses on the importance of making smart food choices in every food group, every day. "MyPyramid is a great tool for consumers to use to help them incorporate recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans into their daily eating plans," Johnson says.
Johnson offers tips to make sure all the colors of MyPyramid are part of your healthful eating plan:
"It's important to make at least half of your daily grains whole grains. Even better, try to get at least three 1-ounce servings of whole grains every day," Johnson says. Easy ways to do this include:
Use whole-grain or oat bread for sandwiches.
Opt for oat or whole-wheat cereal for breakfast.
Substitute brown rice for white rice in favorite recipes.
Add whole barley to soups and stews or bulgur wheat to salads and casseroles.
When looking for whole-grain choices, make sure the label says "100 percent whole grain" and the ingredient label says "whole" before the grain listed.
"Vegetables are a great source of vitamins and other nutrients, which is why it is recommended adults get at least two and a half cups of vegetables each day," Johnson says.
Try crunchy vegetables instead of chips with your favorite dip or low-fat salad dressing.
Top a baked potato with beans and salsa or broccoli and low-fat or fat-free cheese.
Make your main dish a salad of dark, leafy greens and other colorful vegetables. Add chickpeas or edamame (fresh soybeans). Top with a low-fat dressing.
Stuff an omelet with vegetables. Try any combination of chopped tomatoes, onions, green pepper, spinach or mushrooms plus some low-fat or fat-free cheese.
"No matter what form they come in, any vegetable or 100-percent vegetable juice counts as a member of the vegetable group, including fresh, frozen, canned, raw or cooked," Johnson says.
"Fruit not only makes for a great snack, but it can also satisfy a sweet-tooth craving. And because of its versatility, getting the recommended 2 cups every day can be easy," Johnson says.
Start your day by adding sliced fruit to your cereal or on top of whole-grain waffles or pancakes.
Add fruit to salads. This boosts nutrition and adds texture and taste. Add orange slices or strawberries to spinach salads or toss grapes into a mixed green salad.
For dessert, add sliced bananas, berries or peaches to non-fat yogurt or as a topper on angel food cake.
Dried fruit makes a handy snack and can be equally as nutritious as fresh. However, be mindful of serving sizes.
"Juices can count toward your recommended daily amount of fruits, but check the package labels to be sure it says 100-percent fruit juice to make sure you aren't drinking additives like sugar and flavorings," Johnson says.
Used in cooking and baking as well as for flavor, oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature. There are a variety of oils that come from many different plants. Common types include: canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, sunflower, walnut and sesame oils. "Besides their essential fatty acids, oils are the major source of vitamin E for most Americans. However, oils do contain about 120 calories per tablespoon, so keep portions in mind," Johnson says.
"We need calcium for bone health, and many dairy foods also are good sources of protein, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin D. Milk isn't your only source of calcium-rich, low-fat dairy foods though. You have lots of options," Johnson says.
Low-fat cheese in a sandwich
Yogurt dips with vegetables
Low-fat shredded cheese on soups and salads
Evaporated low-fat or fat-free milk in recipes that call for cream.
"Foods made from milk that have little to no calcium, such as cream cheese, cream, and butter, are not considered a part of this group. Most milk group choices should be fat-free or low-fat," Johnson says.
Meat and Beans (Purple)
"This is the protein group and includes a wide variety of foods, including those made from meat, poultry, fish, dry beans or peas, eggs, nuts and seeds," Johnson says.
Choose lean cuts of meat. Look for words like loin or round in the description.
To prepare lean cuts of meat, try broiling, grilling, roasting, panbroiling, braising, stewing or stir-frying.
Choose fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce your risk of heart disease and may help reduce the inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis.
"Generally, if you regularly eat meat, poultry and fish you can count beans in the vegetable group. Those who seldom eat meat, poultry or fish, such as vegetarians, should count some of the beans they eat in the meat and beans group," Johnson says.
As part of National Nutrition Month, the American Dietetic Association's National Nutrition Month website includes of helpful tips, recipes, fun games, promotional tools and nutrition education resources, all designed to spread the message of good nutrition around the "Eat Right with Color" theme.
(This article is reprinted with the permission of the American Dietetic Association.)
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