National Nutrition Month: Personalizing our plates to achieve a healthier lifestyle



MyPlate is a tool that helps us build our meals using a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. MyPlate can be used for adults, teens and children. The hope is the familiar image of a plate will  show us how to balance our meals and include more variety on our plate, so that we can achieve our healthy lifestyle goals.

Fruits/Vegetables: Half of our plate at each meal should be filled with fruits and/or vegetables. This food group packs a punch of fiber which helps with digestion. Choosing a variety of colorful foods provides us with many different vitamins and minerals to fuel our bodies. Whether using fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, we will reap the positive benefits of incorporating this food group into our daily meal plan.

Shopping tip: When using frozen fruits and vegetables, look for items that do not have added sauce or seasoning. Try to find canned vegetables without added salt or low sodium on the label and canned fruit packed in water or 100% juice. Buy fresh produce while it is in season for the best prices and taste.

Protein: Reach for a variety of lean protein sources like poultry, meat, fish, eggs, beans/lentils, nuts/seeds and soy products. This food group should consume a quarter of our plate, which equals a 4 to 6 ounce portion of meat/fish for adults. Protein helps keep us full and are the building blocks for our muscles.

Shopping tip: Look for lean protein choices on sale at your store and buy in bulk. You can freeze what is not needed for use at a later time. Dry beans are more budget friendly, but if you don’t have time to soak the beans, canned beans are a great time-saver. Be sure to look for no added salt varieties, when available, or drain and rinse canned beans to reduce the sodium level.

Grains: Grains should fill a quarter of your plate and half of your grains should come from whole grains. Examples of whole grains include whole wheat bread products, brown rice, corn  and oatmeal. These varieties will provide more fiber which keeps us full and helps our digestion run smoothly. Around a half cup of cooked grains should make up the quarter of an adult portion for a meal time side.

Shopping tip: To ensure you are actually buying a whole grain bread product, look at the ingredient list near the food label and ensure the first word says whole or 100% whole instead of enriched. Occasionally, products which appear to be whole grain are actually still refined and reading the ingredient list can help us buy true whole grain products.

Dairy: Dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt contain calcium that helps build and maintain strong bones. This food group also contains protein, which keeps us full and satisfied. Three, one cup servings per day is the recommendation for teens and adults.

Shopping tip: If your family is in need of a dairy alternative due to lactose intolerance or sensitivities to milk, fortified soy milk and yogurt have the most similar nutrition profile to cow’s milk. The key is that they still include protein and fats, and are not just fortified with calcium and vitamins like nut and grain milk alternatives. If your family has food allergies, consult your doctor and dietitian to learn what the best choice may be for your family. 

Using MyPlate to guide our meals can be the start we need towards a more balanced day. We can personalize our plates with our favorite foods while keeping the division of the plate in mind. As you experiment with your meals, take note of which part of your plate hasn’t typically matched the MyPlate breakdown. This can be your starting place for setting new goals and coming up with new food ideas. As you experiment with MyPlate, remember that variety and inclusion of each of the food groups are key. With creativity and practice, you’ll be on your way to building your own delicious personalized plate!

For additional MyPlate practice and information for all ages visit: www.myplate.gov

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.