Nutrients, Choose My Plate, and Serving Sizes

Nutrients, Choose My Plate, and Serving Sizes


Food is the fuel that gives you energy and keeps
your body running well. For this reason, it is important to choose foods
that will best support a healthy body with lots of
nutrients. There are five basic food groups that should be
included in your daily diet. They include grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy,
and protein. Grains include things like rice, bread, pasta, and
cereals. It is recommended that half of the grains you eat
on a daily basis should be whole grains. Check the ingredients labels to see which items
contain whole grains. Vegetables include things like lettuce and other
greens, carrots, peas, and broccoli. For maximum nutrient value, you should try to
vary the vegetables that you eat. Strive for a colorful array of green, red, orange,
and other colorful veggies. Starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and corn
are also a valuable addition to your diet. Fruits include apples, bananas, melons,
oranges, berries, and others. Even dried fruits like raisins, prunes, and figs
can contribute to your daily fruit intake. 100% fruit juices count as well, although
dietitians recommend opting for whole fruit over
fruit juice. The dairy group is comprised of milk, cheese,
and yogurt. Consuming fat-free or low-fat dairy products will
give your body the same amount of calcium, but with less fat and fewer calories. Proteins include meat, poultry, fish, eggs,
beans, nuts, seeds, and meat substitutes like
tofu and tempeh. Like most things, variety is key. Try to opt for seafood twice per week, and keep meat and poultry portions small and
lean. Foods containing high amounts of fats, sugars,
and salt like soda, candy, and fried foods should be limited in your diet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, or the
USDA, has created a guideline called “Choose My Plate” to help people choose a
more balanced diet. As you can see, half of your plate at mealtimes
should be covered in fruits and vegetables. Just over a quarter of your plate should be filled
with grains. Protein should occupy the remaining space. A cup of milk or yogurt on the side, or one-and-
a-half ounces of cheese sprinkled over your food
can count as your serving of dairy. The Choose My Plate guidelines serve as a
great visual aid when planning meals and serving
your plate. It can also help to guide your decisions on how
much you eat in a day. Serving sizes, and the amount of calories
needed per day is determined based on your age, gender, height, weight, and activity level. To find out what your own personal caloric needs
are, you can visit www.choosemyplate.gov. Under the interactive tools bar, choose the “supertracker” feature. Answer a few simple questions, and the website can calculate the number of
calories you need to consume each day, and even give you a detailed food plan with
serving recommendations for each food group. Here is an example of a daily food plan from
ChooseMyPlate.gov As you can see, the plan is custom-made for
the user, and describes the number of calories
that should be consumed daily, along with the suggested number of servings for
each food group. The plan also includes guidelines for serving
sizes and even tips for a healthier, and more
balanced diet. Obviously the Choose My Plate website can be
extremely helpful for forming healthier eating
habits. Sometimes serving sizes can be confusing, especially if you don’t have a measuring cup
handy. Oftentimes we overestimate serving sizes and
end up eating up more than we should. When you can’t measure your portions exactly,
you can use the following approximations to
estimate serving sizes. One serving of meat, poultry, or fish is 3 ounces,
or about the size of a deck of cards or the palm
of your hand. One egg counts as a serving of protein, and so does 1 tablespoon of peanut butter,
which is about the size of your thumb. One serving of beans is ½ cup, or about a
handful. One serving of fruits or vegetables is 1 cup, or about the size of a closed fist, or a baseball. One serving of grains is ½ cup, about the size of
your palm, or a hockey puck. One slice of bread, one tortilla, one pancake or waffle counts as a serving of
grains and should be about the size of a CD. One serving of milk or yogurt is 1 cup, or about the size of a fist or baseball. One serving of cheese is one and half ounces,
or the size of your pointer finger, or four dice. Many of these serving sizes might be surprising
to you. Usually the portions we are served are much
larger than these amounts, and we can end up
overeating if we’re not careful. In addition to eating too much, oftentimes we don’t eat a balanced diet with
enough fruits and vegetables. The reason why it’s important to eat a balanced
diet that includes a variety of foods, is because
no one type of food has all the nutrients needed for
good health. Nutrients are the materials in food that your
body needs for growth, energy, and good health. Nutrients can be classified into two groups. Macronutrients like water, carbohydrates, fats,
and proteins, are nutrients that your body needs in larger
quantities. Micronutrients are only needed in small
quantities and include vitamins and minerals. Each of the macro- and micronutrients has a
specific job within the body. Water is a macronutrient that comprises 65 to
75% of your body. Water provides a medium for all the chemical
reactions that occur inside your body. Therefore it is essential to life. Carbohydrates are another type of macronutrient
that serves as the main energy source for your
body. Fats are the macronutrient that represents
stored energy as opposed to the readily-
available energy of carbohydrates. The final type of macronutrient is protein. Protein serves as the material necessary for the
growth and repair of all body cells. They can also be broken down for energy. Micronutrients are only needed in small
amounts and include vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals help the body’s cells and
organs do their jobs, boost the immune system, and are needed for the body’s normal growth and
development. Both macro- and micronutrients are listed in the
nutrition facts placed on food items. You will learn how to read these food labels in the next lesson.

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