Rearrange your plate in nutrition month

March is National Nutrition Month, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is urging you to get your plate in shape.

Marjorie Nolan, academy spokeswoman, said that means being aware of portion sizes and total calories.

“Eating should be pleasurable,” she said in a news release. “But it’s important to be aware of how much food we eat every day. A key step to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is putting less food on your plate.”

Using tools such as the USDA’s MyPlate to guide eating habits can help make this change, said academy President Sylvia Escott-Stump. MyPlate replaced the food pyramid, dividing a plate into four sections: fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins, with a glass representing dairy products.

“Our ‘Get Your Plate in Shape’ theme takes it a step further by giving consumers ideas for creative ways to include the food groups, helping them think out of the box to make every meal both healthful and enjoyable,” Escott-Stump said.

Registered dietitian Anglea Ginn said foods high in solid fats, such as sausage and shortening, and sugars, such as regular soda and pastries, should be occasional treats and not regularly crossing our plates.

“Replace these foods with nutritionally sound choices, like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy,” she said in a news release. “Eating occasional treats is OK. Just make sure to balance out those treats with healthier options and get plenty of exercise.”

High levels of sodium found in foods like some frozen meals and canned goods can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Ginn said dietary guidelines recommend about a teaspoon of salt per day, or about 2,300 milligrams, and that sodium intake can be “significantly reduced” by eating fresh foods.

Cooking at home gives people more control of what’s going into their food, registered dietitian Andrea Giancoli said in a news release.

“Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products contain the nutrients we need to maintain healthy lifestyles. Make sure your eating plan includes foods from all the food groups and in appropriate portions.”