Myplate_green Late last week, the USDA announced a change from the long running MyPyramid program to the MyPlate program, a simpler plan focused on portion sizes of healthy foods at each meal. The information found at ChooseMyPlate.gov brings one's attention back to foods at each meal by asking Americans to fill a quarter of their plates each with vegetables, fruits, protein, and grains and have a serving of dairy on the side while being mindful of calorie, sodium, and added sugar intake. We here at ShopWell applaud the USDA for creating straightforward, actionable guidelines to help us reach our food and nutrition goals.

Now that you have clear direction on how much to eat, take a moment and ask yourself: is my pantry stocked with the foods that meet these new guidelines and are right for me?

Want to make improvements? In Part 1 of the series on MyPlate guidelines, I'll start with suggestions for maximizing your vegetable, fruit, grain, protein, and dairy options. Next week, I'll dive into more tips around calories, sodium, and sugar.

To get started, choose one of the following areas to improve and use the tips, searches, and lists to start trading up the foods in your pantry today.

  • Vegetables and Fruits: Fill half your plate

Frozen, canned, fresh, and dried vegetables and fruits are all great options to help you meet your half a plate needs at each meal. Vegetables and fruits can also be prepared in a variety of ways from grilling to roasting to microwaving.

Make sure to buy a variety of colors and types of vegetables and fruits so you get all of the phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other natural substances you need. Here are some snacking, salad, and boil and mash vegetable and fruit salad, on the go, and vitamin c rich fruit lists to get you started.

  • Protein: Choose lean protein options that are low in sodium

Fresh and frozen lean meats, poultry, fish, and seafood are all great protein options. Use salt-free herbs and spices and a variety of cooking techniques (roasting, grilling, sauteing) to change up the taste for each meal.

Not a meat-eater or looking for meat-free options for meatless Mondays? Nuts, seeds, nut butters, tofu, beans, and peas are all great non-meat protein options to add to your list.

Bonus: Beans and peas count in this quadrant as well as in the vegetable quadrant so stock up and try to eat them as frequently as possible.

  • Grains: Look for whole grains in at least half your grains

A quarter of your plate should be grains and at least half of those should be whole grain options like whole wheat, wild rice, and whole corn. Whole grains are those that still have their nutrient-rich bran layer and germ section intact.

Many grains like brown rice, whole bulgar, and rolled oats can be made in larger batches ahead of time and kept in the fridge or freezer to reheat and flavor as needed. Whole grain, unsweetened cerealcrackers, and breads are all good options for your grocery list as well.

  • Dairy: Choose 1% or fat free options

Dairy foods are full of calcium as well as potassium, vitamin D, and other nutrients that are important for bone and heart health and can be incorporated into meals in a variety of ways.

Dairy can come in a wide variety of forms from low fat or fat free milk, cheese, and yogurt. (Those who are lactose intolerant may be able to tolerate smaller portions of dairy through out the day, lactose free or low lactose varieties, or can choose soy milk options.) Add a few options to your list today.

All it takes is one change to get started. Pick the area that seems the easiet to change first. Then, when you master that one, choose another and so on. Over time your whole pantry and eating habits will change.

And stay tuned for the tips next week on calories, sodium, and sugar.

So what are you waiting for? Start trading up your ShopWell grocery list to make it more MyPlate friendly today!

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