Nutrition Basics

MyPlate is a visual tool to help you choose foods in a flexible way that will maximize your nutrition. Research consistently shows that eating patterns primarily consisting of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, with smaller amounts of lean protein and dairy foods, are associated with long-term health benefits. Try experimenting with seasonings and cooking methods to add satisfaction and excitement to eating.

Check out some quick meal & snack ideas!

Use these key strategies to make a healthy plate:

Aim for variety.

Think about including foods from the different food groups in meals and snacks. Try aiming for 3-5 food groups at meals and 1-2 food groups for snacks. Think about varying your food choices within each food group to prevent boredom, increase eating satisfaction, and maximize your nutrition.

Realize that normal eating is flexible.

If you find that a meal is lacking in a food group or two, snacks are a great way to make up for it and add in some extra nutrition. Missed a fruit at breakfast? Grab a banana or apple for a mid-morning snack. Recognize that balanced, healthful eating includes some fun foods such as deserts that may not fit exactly into MyPlate. Use your body’s signals of hunger and fullness to guide eating. Aim to eat when you are physically hunger and stop when you are full.

Start with small changes.

The good news is that you don’t have to completely change how you eat or avoid eating your favorite foods to make changes. Instead, look at what you are currently eating and ask yourself how you can make your plate look more like My Plate. What can you add to a slice of cheese pizza or bowl of spaghetti and meatballs to get more nutrition? Try a green salad and sliced peaches or steamed broccoli and fresh strawberries.

Enjoy eating!

The Japanese find this principal so important that they include “make all activities pertaining to food and eating pleasurable ones” in their dietary guidelines for health. While eating nutritious foods is certainly important, so is finding pleasure in eating. As a college student it can be easy to eat on-the-go or while consumed in another activity such as studying. Try setting aside time to eat without distractions, eating slowly in a mindful manner, and savoring your food. Check out the Principles of Mindful Eating for more information.

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