Get ready for August with MyPlate’s monthly tips!
MyPlate’s theme for August is Back to School, and the team behind MyPlate has 3 great messages for this month. Share them with your clients and their families.
- Drink Water Instead of Sugary Drinks
- How Can You Build a Healthier Plate?
- Be Active Your Way
Let’s take a closer look at each piece of advice, shall we?
Message #1: Drink Water Instead of Sugary Drinks
There are so many reasons that water is a great choice for good health. To start, water offers an efficient way to rehydrate — it’s loaded with exactly what you need without a single empty calorie to get in the way.
What’s an empty calorie? An empty calorie has the same energy content as any other calorie, but it doesn’t have any fiber or nutrients. Sugary drinks are very high in empty calories and can displace more healthful and nutritious calories. According to MyPlate, “In some foods, like most candies and sodas, all the calories are empty calories.” Since these foods provide little nutritional value, only eat them in moderation. Choose foods and drinks that either contribute no empty calories, or which offer a more robust nutritional profile.
Empty calories bring us to the second reason why it’s wise to choose water instead of sugary drinks: overall calorie consumption.
When people consider their eating patterns, they often forget about their drinks. Beverages can be sneaky — many of them hold more calories than you might think. And the crazy part is that our bodies actually treat drinks differently than food. For example, a study by DiMeglio and Mattes explored satiety by offering its participants either jelly beans or soda before a meal. The servings of each sugary treat had the same number of calories, but the soda had no impact on the participants’ calorie intake at the meal, while people who ate the jelly beans first ate fewer calories later. In other words, people didn’t notice the calories when they drank them. Choosing water instead of sugary drinks will help you sidestep this issue entirely.
Ways to Make Choosing Water Fun:
- Slice up some fresh fruit and put it in a pitcher with water in the fridge so that you have bright and flavorful water whenever you need it.
- Try sparkling water! You can add fruit or just enjoy the bubbles plain.
- Pack a water bottle in your lunchbox for a refreshing drink while you’re at school or the office.
Message #2: How Can You Build a Healthier Plate?
A healthy plate is a great tool to help you build the lifestyle you want while reducing your risk of chronic disease. After all, MyPlate is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, and “Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke [… and] may protect against certain types of cancers.” The Dietary Guidelines for Americans also maintain “As discussed in this Report, poor dietary intake has been linked to excess body weight and numerous diseases and conditions, such as cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type 2 diabetes (T2D) and their related risk factors.” Make sure that what you eat is loaded with nutrients, or the consequences are quite dire.
So take a look at your plate. How can you make it healthier?
Ways to Build a Healthier Plate:
- Balance your plate like MyPlate. Make sure that half of it is filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, reserve a quarter of the plate for lean protein, and fill the other quarter with whole grains. A side of low-fat or nonfat dairy can round out the meal.
- Skip added sugars and keep things low in sodium. Check the Nutrition Facts on packages while you shop and choose items with low sodium and added sugars.
- Look for fiber! Make sure that some of the items on your plate at each meal are good sources of fiber. Most people need between roughly 20 and 35 grams of fiber per day (source).
Message #3: Be Active Your Way
It’s great to be active — what ways are most fun for you? Some people like to go for a nice long walk, while others would enjoy nothing more than a serious sweat session at the gym. Still others look to sports for their daily exercise.
All the choices are good. What matters is that you go out there and get active, your way.
So, how much exercise is a good idea? According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, “For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes […] a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes […] a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination.” The guidelines also assert “Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities […] on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.”
Remember to start new exercise programs slowly and vary your activities. Beginning too fast will dramatically increase your risk of injury or burnout. If you have been sedentary for a long time, consider starting by walking for a few minutes per day at an easy pace. Visit your physician to make sure that you are physically able to start an exercise routine. This is especially important if you are new to exercise, have diabetes or heart disease, or are dealing with a health issue that may require special care.
Ways to Be Active Your Way:
- Look for fun ways to exercise in your area. Is there a local running club? A set of new classes at the gym? What about a walking group? Being social while you exercise is a fun way to help you build a new routine and really enjoy what you’re doing.
- Think of ways to add to activities that you are already doing. Can you take a walk during lunch? Park farther away from your school or office? Hand deliver messages? Clean your house more frequently? Jog with the kids? Sometimes giving your regular activities a boost is all you need to help build healthful habits.
- Find a friend — it helps to have a workout buddy. After all, you aren’t as likely to skip out on your exercise plans if you know that you have someone waiting on you. Maybe you have a friend at work who can jog with you at lunch? Or a neighbor that likes to go for a walk on the weekends? Think about people who might be willing to exercise with you.
So there you have it — 3 messages from MyPlate to help make your August healthful and fun. Which will you try first?
And of course there’s more in the Nutrition Education Store! Here are some of the top selling MyPlate resources for back to school!
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.