Put Your Best Fork Forward

Carol Bradley, PhD, RDN, LD, BCBA

During National Nutrition Month®, Put Your Best Fork Forward by creating an eating style that includes a variety of your favorite, healthful foods. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, variety is defined as, “a diverse assortment of foods and beverages across and within all food groups and subgroups selected to fulfill the recommended amounts without exceeding the limits for calories and other dietary components.”
A variety of foods is important, because no one food or food group provides all of the nutrients our bodies need to grow and stay healthy. There are 6 major types of nutrients: water, protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals. We get these nutrients in varying amounts in foods.

Our daily calorie needs are influenced by our age, gender, and activity level, to mention just a few. While many Americans of all ages exceed their calorie limits by eating and drinking extra amounts, others are just not physically active enough for the amount they eat. Taking in too many calories can lead to weight gain and over time this can have a negative effect on our health.

• One of the easiest ways to vary your diet is to vary your veggies. Plan your meals to include different colored vegetables throughout the week. Vegetables have a variety of subgroups (i.e., dark green, red and orange, beans and peas, starchy, etc.) which vary in their nutrient content. Make a point to buy vegetables in season
• Fruits also come in a wide variety of colors. Be sure to choose whole fruits most often and go easy on the juices. Look for juices with 100% fruit juice and no added sugars.
• When it comes to grains, “make half your grains whole grains” for the greatest benefit. Be sure to look for a whole grain flour as the first ingredient listed (as opposed to an enriched one) when choosing breads and cereals.
• MyPlate recommends that we “choose a variety of lean proteins from both plant and animal sources”. This includes lean cuts of meats and fish, as well as dried beans and peas and soybeans.
• Vary your dairy by choosing lower fat versions of your favorite dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese. Use low-fat yogurt to make your favorite dressings and dips.

Put Your Best Fork Forward today by making the healthiest choices from each food group more often. For more information, including recipes, visit www.eatright.org/nnm.