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National Nutrition Month: Embracing personal preferences and cultural traditions with healthy eating


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One of the great advantages of using MyPlate as a guide to healthy eating is the ability to personalize your plate to enjoy healthy food and beverage choices that reflect your personal preferences and cultural traditions. A healthy diet can benefit all individuals regardless of age, race, ethnicity or current health status. Nutrient-dense, culturally-relevant foods and beverages are part of all food groups. Below are five useful tips to help you and your family personalize your plate to meet your individual needs and preferences, while embracing the diversity that makes you and your family most unique.

Choose a variety of options from each food group: Enjoy different foods and beverages within each food group, including vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and fortified soy alternatives, and protein foods. Choosing a variety of foods from each food group can help you and your family meet your daily nutrient needs and also allows for flexibility to personalize your plate based on cultural and personal preferences. All forms of foods including fresh, canned, dried, frozen and 100% juices, in nutrient-dense forms, can be included in a healthy diet. To explore a wide range of foods within each food group, visit MyPlate Food Group Gallery.

Incorporate a variety of spices and herbs: Spices and herbs can help flavor foods when reducing added sugars, saturated fats and sodium. Spices and herbs can also add to the enjoyment of nutrient-dense foods, dishes and meals that reflect specific cultures and traditions. Strategies to lower sodium intake include cooking at home more often; using the Nutrition Facts label to choose products with less sodium, reduced sodium, or no-salt-added; and flavoring foods with spices and herbs instead of salt based on taste preference and cultural traditions.

Choose lean cooking methods: Opt for lean cooking methods such as grilling, broiling, baking, roasting, poaching and boiling. When adding oil to foods, choosing a modest amount of unsaturated oils (i.e. liquid vegetable oils such as olive, avocado, sunflower, peanut oils, etc.) in place of saturated options (i.e. solid oils such as butter, lard, and shortening) can reduce the risk of heart disease and improve “good” (HDL) cholesterol levels for you and your family.

Limit added sugars: To help support healthy eating habits, individuals over age 2 should choose foods and beverages with little to no added sugars and those under age 2 should avoid them altogether. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared, and does not include sugars found in milk and fruits. Choose packaged foods that have less or no added sugars and limit sugary beverages such as soda, lemonade, sports drinks or fruit drinks.

Share meals with family and friends: Research shows families who prepare and eat meals together tend to make healthier food choices and are more likely to eat proper portion sizes compared to eating alone. Eating meals together allows time for family and friends to spend time with one another, model positive eating behaviors, explore new recipes together, and share meals that connect you to your family’s traditions and heritage.

Personal preferences and cultural traditions have a significant influence on your food and beverage choices. Personalizing your plate to reflect personal preference and cultural traditions is an important strategy to help you and your family enjoy healthy eating for a lifetime. At Texas Children’s, a Registered Dietitian can help you and your family make healthy choices that respect your personal preference and cultural traditions.

To learn more about nutrition services at Texas Children’s, visit our website. We’re looking forward to sharing more information with you as we celebrate National Nutrition Month 2021.

Jasmine C. Dailey MPH, RD, LD, CHES, Clinical Pediatric Dietitian