HEAL meal planning is all about nutrient density and appropriate portions. Our education materials teach families to consume fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, lean protein, lean dairy, and healthy fats. Avoid foods that contain high levels of saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. Drink lots of water and avoid beverages with added sugar. Our HEAL-icious recipe challenge requires participants to build nutrient-dense snacks and meals that are both nutritious and delicious. Check out our HEAL resources and videos for more nutrition education and HEAL-icious recipe ideas.
What About Sodium?
Understanding Food Labels
MyPlate is the current nutrition guide published by the USDA utilizing a colorful divided plate and cup to depict the food groups needed for a healthy diet. The purpose of MyPlate is to promote messages based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. MyPlate emphasizes the five basic food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy products.
MyPlate is a reminder to find your healthy eating style and build it throughout your lifetime. Everything you eat and drink matters. The right mix can help you be healthier now and in the future. This means:
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. They can be fresh, frozen, or canned. If you choose canned vegetables, be careful, and select the lower sodium vegetables.
- Focus on whole fruits either fresh, frozen, dried, or canned in water or light syrup
- Make half your grains whole grains.
- Choose low-fat dairy.
- Vary your proteins, including lean meat, chicken, pork, and fish. Grill or broil instead of frying.
- Focus on variety, amount, and nutrition.
- Select foods and beverages with less saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.
- Start with small changes to build healthier eating styles.
MyPlate shows the different food groups represented by different colors. Red represents fruit, green represents vegetables, blue represents dairy, orange represents grains, and purple represents protein. To eat healthy, you must eat a variety of foods from each food group.
Fruits & Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are represented by red and green respectfully on MyPlate. Eat a variety of colorful fruits (apples, berries, grapes, pineapple) and vegetables (leafy greens, squash, beets) to get plenty of vitamins and minerals – particularly Vitamins C, A, B6, potassium, and antioxidants. These nutrients may help with the prevention of cancer, heart disease, digestive problems, and type 2 diabetes. Each day fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.
Orange indicates the grain group. Grains are the primary source of carbohydrates and a good source of minerals such as folate, niacin, and thiamin. These nutrients help to produce energy in the body and prevent anemia in the blood. Since carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy, a little over ¼ of your plate should be grains. To increase fiber intake, at least half of your grains should be whole grains. Whole wheat bread, whole grain cereals, popcorn, and bran muffins are good options.
The color purple represents the protein group. Protein is used by the body to build strong muscles and produce energy. Proteins also contain B vitamins, which help with disease prevention. Lean meat and beans are excellent sources of protein. Other sources include chicken, fish, peanut butter, and eggs. A little less than a ¼ of your plate should be made up of protein.
The blue section of MyPlate represents the dairy group. Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt) contain calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium, all of which help to strengthen bones and teeth as well as help regulate your heart and cardiovascular system. The amount of dairy foods needed varies, but most school-aged children need between 3 to 4 servings of dairy each day. When selecting dairy products, low-fat options are a great choice.