By ANGIE CARNATHAN
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has announced plans to help consumers understand the need for more fruits and vegetables in their diets, in addition to proper portion control. For that reason, the theme for this year's National Nutrition Month is "Get Your Plate in Shape."
According to http://www.eatright.org , each March the Academy encourages Americans to return to the basics of healthy eating. This year's National Nutrition Month theme encourages consumers to ensure they are eating the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy each day.
Registered dietitian and Academy President Sylvia Escott-Stump said the purpose of National Nutrition Month is to improve the nutritional health of consumers by translating sound, science- and evidence-based research into messages the public can understand and apply to their everyday lives.
"Each year, National Nutrition Month provides us the opportunity to remind consumers of the basics of healthy eating," Escott-Stump said. "By focusing this year's theme on the new 'My Plate,' we can help people make the simple changes to their daily eating plans that will benefit them for a lifetime."
Launched in June 2011, the United States Dietary Association's "My Plate" replaced "My Pyramid" as the government's primary food group symbol as an comprehensible visual cue to help consumers adopt healthy eating habits consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. Dividing the plate into four sections (fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins,) as well as a glass representing dairy products, it shows consumers how they can incorporate the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines into every meal.
OCH Regional Medical Center Dietetic Interns Debbie Milne and Brianna Cooper said there are a lot of misconceptions about serving sizes among the general public, which is why they also recommend the website http://www.choosemyplate.org . Milne said the website shows in easy to understand language and graphics how Americans should be eating each day.
"One reason they changed the graphic from the foot pyramid to the plate is to show people exactly how they should build a plate when they eat," Milne said. "It takes out any confusion the general public might still have."
Milne said the fact that Type II diabetes is still on the rise is evidence that the general public is still unsure about dietary guidelines.
"The truth of the matter is people are still eating way too many carbohydrates and starchy vegetables and not enough colorful and fibrous vegetables," Milne said. "Having a huge baked potato on your plate and thinking your are getting your vegetables is incorrect. You do need carbohydrates, but in moderation."
Cooper said people are often still wrong when it comes to serving sizes, too.
"A serving of meat should be about 3 ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards or the mouse on your computer," Cooper said. "Many of the sizes sold in grocery stores are larger than what is recommended. Eating grilled chicken is great, but a really large piece could be two to three times the serving you should be eating per meal."
Milne said one small roll and a small baked potato is fine with dinner, but neither should take up more than a fourth of the plate.
"The thing to remember is you might be able to have more starchy vegetables, but you still need room on your plate for the recommended amount of leafy green vegetables," Milne said. "Half of your plate should be vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, carrots, beets, etc."
According to a release, the http://www.choosemyplate.org  website has a built-in tool called Super Tracker, which is a comprehensive, state-of-the-art resource designed to assist individuals as they make changes in their life to reduce their risk of chronic disease and maintain a healthy weight.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Super Tracker helps the public personalize recommendations for what and how much to eat and understand the amount of physical activity they need. Individuals can track foods and physical activity from an expanded database of foods and physical activities.
"Super Tracker even has customized features such as goal setting, virtual coaching, weight tracking and journaling," Vilsack said. "Individuals can measure progress with comprehensive reports ranging from a simple meal summary to in-depth analysis of food groups and nutrient intake over time."
Milne and Cooper said keeping track of what people eat, how much they eat and how many calories they burn is key to maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight to meet a healthier goal.
Escott-Stump said http://www.eatright.org/  includes helpful tips, fun games, promotional tools and nutrition education resources, all designed to spread the message of good nutrition around the "Get Your Plate in Shape" theme.A few general guidelines recommended by the USDA include:
Choose foods and drinks with little or no added sugars.
• Drink water throughout the day. For variety, add lemons, limes or cucumbers to your water or try carbonated water.
• Choose low-fat or fat-free milk or 100-percent fruit juices.
• Eat fresh fruit salad for dessert.
Eat fewer foods that are high in solid fats.
• Instead of regular ground beef, opt for extra-lean ground beef. Ground turkey and chicken are also available in lean options.
• Grill, broil, bake or steam your foods instead of frying.
• Cook with healthy oils like olive, canola and sunflower oils in place of hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils.
• Opt for fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese.
Cut back on sodium.
• Instead of salt, use herbs and spices to season foods, and avoid salting food before tasting it.
• Do not add salt when cooking pasta, rice and vegetables.
• Read the Nutrition Facts Panel to compare sodium content of foods such as soups, broths, breads and frozen dinners, and choose the healthiest option.
• Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meats, poultry and fish, beans and peas, unsalted nuts, eggs and low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt.