Personalize Your Plate | March is National Nutrition Month

Written by: Candace Mattson, RD, CSO

Happy National Nutrition Month! March is a great opportunity to celebrate good nutrition all month long. This month, you will be able to learn tips to improve your eating habits and overall health. This year, the theme for National Nutrition Month is “Personalize Your Plate.”

Eating habits must be personalized to best meet your own individualized needs. A specific diet that works for someone else might not necessarily work for you. To achieve a balanced plate overall, strive to get all of the nutrients your body needs by eating a wide variety of nutritious foods every single day.

Balance Your Plate

Include on your plate all food groups, as each provides a differing variety of vitamins and minerals. They also vary in the number of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. The five food groups are fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy. The combination of foods and amounts will depend on how to best personalize your plate to best meet your needs.

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The five food groups. Learn more at

To get started with personalizing your plate, choose lean protein foods such as lean cuts of meat, as well as poultry or fish for good heart health. Consider trying other types of protein-rich foods such as beans, peas, lentils, soy, or eggs.

Be sure to fill half of your place with fruits and veggies. Fruits and veggies are great food groups to get creative with. Experiment with different colors and textures for an exciting, nutritious energy source with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.

Try to make at least half of your consumed grains each day whole grains. Whole grains are a good source of fiber and contain more vitamins and minerals than refined grains. Complete your meal with low-fat dairy food, like milk, yogurt, cheese, or a calcium-fortified milk alternative.

Aim to limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your total calories. Limit trans fats too – as low as possible. Limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg daily unless your doctor has instructed otherwise. Added sugars should be less than 10% of your total calories per day. Consume a high percentage (20% or more) of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.

Understand Food Labels

A great way to ensure you’re eating nutritious foods every day is to understand how to read the nutrition facts label on your foods. Always start at the top of the label to see what is considered a serving size and how many servings are in the container of food you’re planning to eat. The daily values listed on the label are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. However, everyone is unique and you may need to consume more or less than 2,000 calories per day. Learn more about how to read the nutrition facts label from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

Stay Hydrated

Part of a healthy diet includes adequate fluid intake – AKA staying hydrated! Typically, a person needs 6 – 8 cups of fluids per day, but this can vary depending on individual needs.

The best way to quench your thirst is by drinking water, rather than drinks with added sugars, which unnecessarily increase your daily caloric intake. Staying hydrated is especially important if you are active, an older adult, or live or work in extreme weather conditions.

Slow Down During Mealtimes

A mealtime is a great time to slow down and focus on what you’re eating. Dedicating time to enjoy the taste and textures of food can have a positive effect on monitoring your food intake — avoiding overeating.

A mealtime is also perfect for catching up with your family during your busy days. Plan to eat as a family at least a few times a week. Set regular mealtimes and plan to turn off electronic devices to encourage conversation. Getting your kids or family involved in meal planning, cooking can be a great opportunity to teach them about good nutrition.

Have Fun

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated or boring. A healthy eating style can be as unique as you! Personalize your plate each and every day for good health.

Candace Mattson is a Registered Dietitian (RD) at UP Health System – Marquette. She is also board certified in Oncology Nutrition (CSO). For more information on Nutrition and Wellness services at UP Health System – Marquette, visit

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