Dietary Guidelines Say: Your Plate is Half-Full…

It’s simple but it’s not easy. Eating nutritious foods and staying hydrated is vital to fueling up for this physically challenging nursing profession. Plus, a nurse’s energy has to last up to 12 hours, sometimes without a break to rest, let alone eat, during a shift.

Nurses aren’t the only folks running on empty, nutritionally speaking. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the typical American diets exceed the recommended intake levels or limits in four

categories: calories from solid fats and added sugars; refined grains; sodium; and saturated fat.

In June 2011, MyPlate replaced the familiar MyPyramid, as a visual reminder to help us eat in a healthier way. It uses a simple graphic (see image above) to show the main food groups on, well, a plate! Looks easy-peasy right? Not so fast.

It’s hard to change your entire eating pattern all in one swoop, so don’t even try. Instead, revise one habit at a time. Start with filling half your plate with fruits and/or veggies at each meal. Go for a rainbow colored plate – you’re more likely to get the maximum nutrients your body needs to thrive. Here’s how:

Make it a pleasant dining experience and don’t force down foods you dislike. Kale, chard, spinach, beets, and Brussels sprouts, say, are an acquired taste. “Super tasters,” who dislike most vegetables because of bitterness, may never develop a hankering for those foods.

That’s OK. They do fine with “kid-friendly” veggies like white potatoes and sweet potatoes. Fresh, frozen, canned, and dried can all be excellent choices, so you’re sure to find a tasty and convenient version of your favorites.

Besides meals, fruits and veggies are quick snacks for on-the-go noshing. You can also carry or stash in a drawer dried fruits (sour cherries, pineapple, and apricots, in addition to the usual raisins) and vegetables such as kale chips.

When you’ve met the half-plate challenge, you can go on to other simple food fixes. Let us know how you’re doing, or share your favorite veggie recipes!


Jebra Turner is a health reporter and former H.R. director for an ergonomics-focused firm, where she oversaw workplace health and safety training programs for staff and clients. She lives in Portland, Oregon, but you can visit her at www.jebra.com.

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