Eating healthy is not something that comes easy or naturally to me. In fact, it wasn’t even something that I was truly taught growing up. And if we’re getting really honest, most of us aren’t forced to look in the mirror and understand it until the “Freshman 15” hit us after high school (boy, do I miss my old metabolism!)
I know we had covered the food pyramid in school, but I couldn’t really tell you what fits where, and what the serving amounts were. Once I was responsible for my own nutrition, I had to learn tricks of the trade that worked best for me.
In order to keep myself on my healthiest dietary track, I simply filled half my plate with fruits and vegetables. Imagine my surprise and delight when the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) got rid of the ol’ pyramid, and replaced it with an easy to understand food plate that followed my same tried and true guideline!
The point of the USDA plate diagram is to give us a better visualization of what meal portion sizes are to look like in healthy living. The plate is broken up into 4 sections, with a cup of dairy off to the side. Each half of the plate has a split of about 60/40. On one side, the 60/40 split is between your protein (40%) and your grains (60%). The other side is your fruit (40%) and your veggies (60%).
Why are fruits and veggies so important?
There are many brilliant aspects to fruits and vegetables. Our bodies require a daily supply of vitamins and minerals, and these plants are the perfect source. Plus, fruits and veggies contain disease-fighting phytochemicals, which is something that you typically can’t replace by simply popping a daily multi-vitamin pill.
Thanks to all these special ingredients, a diet of fruits and veggies can reduce your risk of heart disease, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cancers.
Keeping all this in mind though, I have to admit that my own personal favorite thing about vegetables and fruit is that they are low in calories, but high in fiber. So you can eat a ton without blowing your diet, and the fiber keeps you feeling fuller, longer (plus, fiber is necessary to clean your insides out).
What does my half a plate look like?
Don’t deprive yourself, and keep it simple. My family still indulges in pizza night! But we juice up our daughters favorite strawberry smoothie, and we start our meal with a salad. By the time we get to the pizza, we only want a slice or two, and my family of four can easily share a large pizza.
At breakfast time, you can mix all kinds of fabulous veggies, like tomatoes, spinach, bell peppers, green onions, into egg whites for a fabulous omelet. You can also try stirring sliced fruit, like banana, berries or peaches into your yogurt.
Sliced fruit is also a favorite dessert of mine, topped with a dollop of lite or fat free whipped topping. Make lunch fun by mixing a fruit, veggie and protein all together, like ants on a log (celery, smeared with peanut butter, topped with raisins). Or for a fun and allergy free alternative, try Nutella!
How do you incorporate fruits and veggies into your everyday meals?
Tell us in the comments below!