Ring in 2013 With the USDA’s Guide to Healthy Eating!

By Nicole Hopping January 1, 2013 No Comments on Ring in 2013 With the USDA’s Guide to Healthy Eating!

The New Year is upon us and there’s no better way to kick off 2013 than by making informed, health-conscious decisions about what to eat. After all, we have to leave the daily indulgences of hot chocolate and pecan pie behind at some point, right?

Back in 1980 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) shared the same sentiment and published their first edition of Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guide has been updated almost yearly since then and is a great starting point for anyone looking to make changes to their diet, for the better.

Here’s the skinny on the USDA’s guidelines.

Build a healthy plate

  • Half the plate should always be fruits and vegetables and the more color, the better!
  • The other half should be equal parts grain and protein. Opt for whole grains, as they’ll keep you fuller longer and choose lean meats which provide protein without additional fat. Beans are also a great source of protein and fiber, so consider a vegetarian protein option occasionally.
  • Dairy is also an important nutrient but it’s important to choose skim or 1% dairy products, as they contain the same vitamins and minerals, without the added fat. If food allergies are an issue, look for calcium fortified soy products (which have calcium added into a food where calcium doesn’t occur naturally).

Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt

  • This means limiting intake of processed foods like sodas, chips, cereal, candy, and frozen foods. Processed foods have large amounts of added fat, sugar, and sodium—all of which are bad for our health.
  • Steer clear of fats like butter, cream, shortening, margarine, and hydrogenated oils by replacing these fats with healthier options like canola, olive, or vegetable oil.

Eat the right amount of calories for you

  • Knowing your daily calorie goals and keeping that number in mind throughout the day will help with weight maintenance. It’s not about counting calories as much as it’s about being conscious of how much we need in relation to how much we actually eat. To find out how many calories you should be consuming each day check out the USDA’s calorie calculator.
  • Be aware of oversized portions and always consider cutting restaurant entrees in half. Pay attention to serving sizes on packaged foods and serve yourself that serving instead eating directly from the container.
  • Always include beverages in your daily calorie intake—those white chocolate mochas from Starbucks can really add up!

Be physically active, your way

  • Choose an activity that is pleasing to you, because the goal is to do physical activity that’s enjoyable, not one that feels like a chore. Shoot for at least ten minutes a day and start small. Take the pup out for a walk or grab a colleague and stroll around the park on your lunch break. Sign up for that dance class you always wanted to take or the bowling league you never got around to joining. Every little bit counts!

Using the USDA’s four key points outlined above will help keep us all on the right track. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be about severely limiting calories and banishing sweets forever. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: It’s about choosing foods that will provide the right balance of nutrients without unnecessary calories from fats and sugar, and recognizing where we have a little room for indulgences… like French fries or chocolate chip cookies!

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