National Nutrition Month: Plan Your Meals Each Week

March is National Nutrition Month®, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics wants to help give everyone the tools to make informed food choices and develop healthful eating and physical activity habits for life. This year’s theme is to Personalize Your Plate, and this week’s message is to: plan your meals each week!

Follow these 5 tips to help you know how to make a plan to eat a balanced diet.

  1. Use a grocery list to shop for healthful foods
  • Fruits – fresh, frozen, and fruits canned in 100% fruit juice.
  • Vegetables – fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables labeled “no sodium added” or “low sodium.”
  • Grains – looks for items with “whole wheat” or “whole grain” on the label. Look for items that have “whole wheat” or “whole wheat flour” as the first ingredient in the ingredient list. Compare products, and choose the one with more fiber and less added sugars.
  • Protein – choose fresh and frozen unprocessed skinless poultry, fish, seafood, lean pork, and lean beef. Choose canned meats and fish labeled “no sodium added” or “low sodium.”
  • Dairy – choose low-fat and fat-free milk, yogurt, and cheese and calcium-fortified soymilk.
  • Condiments and oils – while this isn’t part of MyPlate Guidelines, condiments and oils are used in almost every dish. Choose condiments that are low in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. Choose plant oils that are liquid at room temperature and are lower in saturated fats.
  1. Be menu-savy when dining out
  • Look for nutrition information – many restaurants, especially chain restaurants, have calorie information listed next to the food item on the menu. Information on fat, sodium, carbohydrates, fiber, added sugar, and protein should be available upon request or online.
  • Look for keywords – sometimes, restaurants don’t provide nutrition information. Words like “crunchy,” “crispy,” “battered,” “breaded,” “creamy,” “cheesy,” and “alfredo” all indicate that an item might be higher in calories and saturated fat. Words like “baked,” “grilled,” “roasted,” “steamed,” “al fresco,” and “marinara” indicate that an item might be lower in calories and a more healthful option.
  • Portions matter – restaurants often serve food in much larger portions that we need. Ask for a to-go box when you get your food, and immediately put half of it away for later to help prevent you from overeating.
  1. Choose healthful recipes to make during the week
  1. Enjoy healthful eating at school and at work
  • Plan the night before – pack a balanced lunch and snacks to help you avoid unplanned eating out for lunch and snacking on candy when you get hungry in the afternoon.
  • Be prepared – keep single-serve packages of whole-grain crackers, fruit, peanut butter, soup, or tuna at your desk for a quick lunch.
  • Avoid mindless eating – keep snacks off your desk and hidden away to help prevent you from eating when you aren’t hungry.
  1. Plan healthful eating while traveling
  • Think ahead – research restaurants along the way and at your destination so you can easily choose places with healthful choices.
  • Pack healthy choices – bring fruits, vegetables, nut butter, pre-portioned trail mix, whole grain snack bars, and your other favorite, healthy snacks so you don’t feel the need to get chips and a candy bar when you stop for gas.
  • Balance your meals – if you plan to indulge for dinner, have a lighter breakfast and lunch.

Check back next week for more National Nutrition Month information! You can also follow us on Facebook and find healthy recipes here.