A balanced diet should include a colorful variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy. Varying the color and foods in your diet will ensure that you are getting all of the nutrients that you need to stay healthy. There are two easy ways to do this:
An easy way to add color to your diet is to include a variety of fruits and vegetables. Produce tastes best and has the most nutrients when it is in season, and most of these foods are low-calorie, low-fat, and low-sodium.
|Green||Avocado, apples, grapes, honeydew, kiwi||Asparagus, broccoli, green peppers, leafy greens|
|Orange and deep yellow||Apricot, cantaloupe, mango, pineapple||Carrots, yellow pepper, sweet potatoes, butternut squash|
|Purple and blue||Blackberries, blueberries, plums, raisins||Eggplant, purple cabbage, purple-fleshed potato|
|Red||Cherries, cranberries, pomegranate, strawberries||Beets, red peppers, rhubarb, tomatoes|
|White, tan, and brown||Banana, brown pear, dates, white peaches||Cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, turnips, white corn|
Are you ready to brighten your next meal? Here are some quick tips!
- Add broccoli, spinach, or green peppers to pizza.
- Add sliced apple to a salad.
|Orange and deep yellow|
- Bake your own sweet potato fries.
- Use yellow pepper instead of green pepper in recipes.
|Purple and blue|
- Add blueberries to cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt.
- Add strawberries to cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt.
- Add red peppers and tomatoes to an omelet or scrambled eggs.
|White, tan, and brown|
- Add banana slices to a peanut butter sandwich.
- Try mashed parsnips and/or turnips instead of mashed potatoes.
Another way to vary the color in your diet is to use the colors of MyPlate as a guide for your food choices every day. Each food group in MyPlate corresponds to a color:
|Color||Food Group||Goal||How to Reach Your Goal||Tips|
|Orange||Grains||Varies by age, gender, and amount of physical activity||At least half of your daily grain intake should come from whole grains.||Look for labels that say “100% whole grain.”|
|Green||Vegetables||Aim for about 2½ cups per day||Vegetables are organized into subgroups based on nutrient content, such as dark green, orange, dry beans and peas, and starchy veggies.||Try to eat a variety of vegetables.|
|Red||Fruits||Aim for about 2 cups per day||Any fruit or 100% fruit juice is considered part of fruit group.||Try to eat a variety of fruit.|
|Blue||Dairy||Aim for about 3 cups (720 milliliters [ml]) per day.||1 cup = 1 cup (240 ml) milk or yogurt, 1½ ounces (42 grams [g]) natural cheese, 2 ounces (56 g) processed cheese||Most dairy choices should be fat-free or low-fat.|
|Purple||Protein||Aim for 5-6 ounce (140-168 g) equivalents per day||1 ounce equivalent = 1 ounce (28 g) meat, poultry, or fish; ¼ cup cooked dry beans; 1 tablespoon (15 ml) peanut butter; ½ ounce (14 g) nuts or seeds||Choose lean protein foods.|
If keeping track of the cups and ounces of foods you need to eat every day is confusing or difficult, focus on these four things when preparing a meal:
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
- Make at least half your grains whole grains.
- Use fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
- Eat lean protein foods.
Remembering these things is easier than remembering measurements, and will ensure that you are getting the right amount of good foods in your diet every day.
- Join a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). These programs allow you to eat in color and in season. Some farms offer quarter-share or half-share options, fruit shares, and eggs. You can find a participating farm near you on the Local Harvest website (http://www.localharvest.org/).
- Buy goods at a farmer’s market. Some farms participate in winter markets so you can buy fresh, local produce all year.
- Start a home garden. It is economical and a great way to get kids involved.
American Dietetic Association website. Available at: . Accessed May 2, 2011.
Dairy. United States Department of Agriculture, Dietary Guidelines for Americans website. Available at: . Accessed June 15, 2011.
Fruits. United States Department of Agriculture, Dietary Guidelines for Americans website. Available at: . Accessed June 15, 2011.
Grains. United States Department of Agriculture, Dietary Guidelines for Americans website. Available at: . Accessed June 15, 2011.
Protein foods. United States Department of Agriculture, Dietary Guidelines for Americans website. Available at: . Accessed June 15, 2011.
United States Department of Agriculture, Dietary Guidelines for Americans website. Available at: . Accessed May 2, 2011.
United States Department of Agriculture, ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: . Accessed June 15, 2011.
Vegetables. United States Department of Agriculture, Dietary Guidelines for Americans website. Available at: . Accessed June 15, 2011.
Last reviewed May 2011 by Maria Adams, MS, MPH, RD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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