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Build a healthy meal
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As the final days of National Nutrition Month pass us by I want to give you some good reasons to choose to eat healthier. Whenever I present educational materials that promote health and wellness I start by asking participants if they think what they choose to eat affects their overall health? Nearly everyone thinks it matters, yet the reasons they give for not eating healthy abound. The USDA developed thirty-seven one page fact sheets as part of the 10 tips nutrition education series. Titles range from: “Kid-Friendly Veggies and Fruits,” “Make better beverage choices,” “Salt and Sodium,” to “Eating Better on a Budget.”    
Today I am going to focus on the 10 tips fact sheet titled, “Build a Healthy Meal.” Of course a healthy meal starts with more vegetables and fruits and smaller portions of protein and grains. Tip number 1 is to make half your plate veggies and fruits. These two food groups are full of nutrients and are known to promote good health. Choose red, orange and dark green vegetables such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.
Tip number 2 is to add lean protein. Choose meat, poultry, beans, nuts and seeds, and don’t forget to include seafood once or twice a week. Including whole grains is tip number 3. Look for the words 100% whole grain or 100% whole wheat on the food label. Whole grains provide more nutrients like fiber, than refined grains.
Tip number 4 is “Don’t forget the dairy.” Switching to low fat milk is a good idea for many folks. You get the same amount of calcium but less fat. If you do not or cannot drink milk, there are several good calcium rich beverages, like soy, almond, or rice drink to try. Tip number 5 is no surprise as it encourages us to “avoid extra fat.” Using heavy gravies or sauces will add fat and calories to otherwise healthy choices. For example, steamed broccoli is great, but avoid topping it with cheese sauce. Try a squeeze of lemon instead.
Tips 6, 7, and 8, are “take your time”, “use a smaller plate” and “take control of your food.”  These three tips encourage us to eat slowly to really savor the taste and texture of foods. Be mindful because eating very quickly may cause you to eat too much. Using a smaller plate at meals helps with portion control. Eating at home more often helps you know exactly what you are eating. When you must eat out choose healthier options like baked instead of fried.
Tip number 9 is to try new foods. Keep it interesting by picking out new foods you have never tried before, like mango, lentils or kale. You may find a new favorite. And finally tip number 10 is: “Satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy way.” Remember that grab-and-go fruit is a naturally sweet treat. For a hot dessert, bake apples and top with cinnamon.
All of the 10 tips Nutrition Education Series are available in Spanish as well as English. Give me a call if you would like more information about healthy eating.
Donna Krug is the Family & Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Barton County. You may reach her at: (620)793-1910 or