These days, we don’t need to be reminded twice to eat healthy. The rising levels of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease constantly make the news. Consumers pay more attention to what they consume, and businesses work to meet the health demands of their customers as well as to follow the regulations that are being passed each year by state and federal agencies.
But knowing that you should eat healthy foods and actually eating them are two different issues. And how do you know which foods to eat and which to avoid?
In our new MyPlate Mondays series of articles, we plan to lay out the basics of healthy eating: the five food groups. Each week we’ll cover the best foods in each group and feature a delicious and healthy recipe. We’ll also explain exactly what benefits you can get from different foods, how to build a good diet, and what foods to avoid if you have a condition such as diabetes or high cholesterol.
Once upon a time, every school child in America was taught the food pyramid, which roughly told you what the groups were, how important they were, and what types of foods fell into each category. But not all foods are created equal. And the pyramid was unclear on how much of each food to eat.
That’s why, last year, the USDA unveiled their new guide, MyPlate. An easy to understand graphic, MyPlate provides a strong reminder of the five food groups, especially how much to eat of each (more vegetables and grains, less fruit and protein, with a side of dairy). At their website, you can plan meals, track the food you eat, and learn how to balance your diet.
Before we jump in, we want to include a few tips about meal planning and purchasing food, especially for families who are on a budget or pressed for time:
- Include all five food groups in each meal if possible.
- Plan colorful meals—foods of different colors offer different nutrients.
- Buy frozen mixed vegetables to save money. (Frozen foods offer just as much nutrition as fresh foods.)
- Avoid buying processed foods, especially ones with a dozen ingredients that you can’t pronounce.
- Set aside time on a day off to prepare for the weeks’ meals (you can clean and chop vegetables ahead of time).
- Prepare meals in large batches and freeze the extra.
- And for parents of picky eaters, remember that a child needs to try a new food at least 15 times before they learn to like it.