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Get your plate in shape for National Nutrition Month

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There is a lot to be said about the old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” By making simple changes, such as adding more fruits or vegetables to your diet, you can reduce your risk of suffering from chronic diseases, including stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

There’s no better time to begin making improvements to your diet than now. March is National Nutrition Month, sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This year’s theme, “Get Your Plate in Shape,” focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

In Indiana, only 21 percent of adults and 16 percent of high school students consume the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, according to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Those who consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables are less likely to be overweight or obese.

“In Indiana, we struggle with obesity, including in our children,” said State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin, M.D. “The concept of eating healthy can seem overwhelming. But you don’t have to start by going all or nothing. By making small changes, like adding apple slices to your child’s lunch instead of potato chips, your family can begin to be healthier.”

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends these tips to “Get Your Plate in Shape.”

Tip #1: Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

• Fruits and vegetables make great, crunchy snacks, are low in calories and provide the nutrients you need.

• Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green, red and orange vegetables plus beans and peas.

Tip #2: Switch to low-fat or fat-free milk.

• Switching to fat-free or low-fat milk provides you with the same amount of calcium and essential nutrients as whole milk, but with less fat and calories.

• If you are lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk or a calcium-fortified soy beverage.

Tip #3: Make at least half your grains whole.

• Choose 100-percent whole-grain breads, cereals, crackers, pasta and brown rice.

• Check the ingredients list on food packages to find whole-grain foods.

Tip #4: Vary your protein choices.

• Eat a variety of foods from the protein group each week, such as seafood, nuts and beans, as well as lean meat, poultry and eggs. Twice a week, make seafood the protein on your plate.

• Eat lean portions of meat and poultry.

“National Nutrition Month is a great opportunity for individuals and families to “get their plate in shape” by taking advantage of one of the greatest resources of health and vitality—fruits and vegetables,” said Larkin.

The Indiana State Department of Health is attempting to make lasting changes in the food environment in the state with Indiana’s Comprehensive Nutrition and Physical Activity Plan, 2010-2020, a plan designed to promote healthy eating and physical activity and decrease obesity in Indiana. The Plan provides the framework for action needed across all sectors of Indiana to address poor nutrition, sedentary behaviors, and obesity.

For additional information about incorporating fruits and vegetables into your diet, portion control and to check out healthy recipes, visit the INShape Indiana website at www.inshapeindiana.org.

To learn more about what Indiana is doing to create a healthier food environment, visit the Indiana Healthy Weight Initiative website, www.inhealthyweight.org.

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