UT Extension Highlights National Nutrition Month

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Guidelines to Personalize Your Plate and Enjoy Nutritious Meals

March is National Nutrition Month, a time when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics emphasizes the importance of making nutritious food choices and engaging in physical activity. Helping people make healthy food choices is a top priority for University of Tennessee Extension, in March and throughout the year.

“There are many ways to eat healthfully. As the Nutrition Month theme suggestions, I encourage people to Personalize Their Plate by choosing nutritious foods that fit within their personal and culture preferences and their food budget,” says Kristen Johnson, assistant professor and Extension nutrition specialist. “By making these choices, we can feel our best and improve or maintain health,” adds the expert.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides specific advice on core components of a nutritious diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein foods and low-fat or fat free dairy foods. These foods are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber and low in added sugars, salt and saturated fats. However, you can choose the foods within each food group that meet your preferences. 

As you choose the nutritious foods that you enjoy, aim to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of your plate with grains, and the remaining quarter of your plate with a lean protein food and add a serving of dairy foods to your meal. Johnson adds that many meals may not fit within separated sections of a plate. Dishes like soups, stews and pasta dishes are often full of nutritious foods and these guidelines can still be useful when planning meals that include mixed dishes. Compare your meal to these recommendations and ask yourself if all the food groups are represented and in the recommended amounts? You might ask yourself, does your mixed dish include vegetables or does your meal include fruit? If not, are there small steps you can take to create a nutritious, balanced meal that you find enjoyable?

During National Nutrition Month, and throughout the year, UT Extension encourages you to plan your plates (or bowls!) with nutritious foods that you enjoy. The benefits of healthful eating are many. Today is a great day to plan delicious meals and snacks your way!

Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. utia.tennessee.edu.


Beth Hall Davis

University of Tennessee, Institute of Agriculture