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National Nutrition Month: MyPlate on Your Table

By Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

March is National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is Get Your Plate in Shape. In fact, the USDA MyPlate healthy eating icon is the perfect tool for starting a healthy makeover of your family meals. Eating the MyPlate way is delicious, convenient, and easy on your food budget. has helpful tips and details about the food groups, as well as ways to rate your plate and plan menus.


Want to save money on your food bills, while making sure your family is getting the nutrition they need to feel great and stay healthy? The keys to eating smart are actually very simple: Make changes slowly and steadily, while always planning ahead.

  • Focus on one change at a time: No need for extreme nutrition makeovers. Pick one thing, like switching to whole grain cereal or bread. Try a few different types until you find the right one; then move onto another change, like serving veggies for snacks. Research shows kids are more likely to eat their veggies with a bit of low-fat dip.
  • Stock your kitchen with smart staples: Having healthy foods on hand makes it easy to put MyPlate on the table. Super staples include canned beans and dry pasta in the cupboard, as well as frozen veggies and berries in the freezer. Shop supermarket specials so the fridge has plenty of lean meats, fresh produce, and low-fat dairy foods.


  • Put produce on half your plate: MyPlate’s key message is that we all need to eat more fruits and veggies. Fresh produce is fabulous, when it’s in season and the price is right. Other produce options (frozen, dried, and canned without salt or sugary syrups) are also delicious and nutritious ways to fill our fruit and vegetables gaps.
  • Divide half into whole grains and lean protein: MyPlate suggests filling the other half of your plate with lean proteins and grains (whole when possible). It’s easy to do whole grain cereal + nuts at breakfast, a tuna sandwich on multi-grain bread for lunch, and whole wheat pasta + lean beef meatballs with sauce at dinner.
  • Serve ice-cold milk with meals: Most Americans are not getting calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. That’s why MyPlate recommends low-fat dairy with every meal. A refreshing 8 oz. glass of fat-free or 1% milk three times a day will help you fill those nutrient gaps, so your whole family can build and maintain strong bones for life.


The best part of healthy eating is enjoying food with family or friends. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks - take time to share a conversation while you eat.

For more than a decade, Eat Right Montana (ERM) has provided Montanans with a go-to resource for positive, practical nutrition and fitness information, along with tasty recipes and easy tips for healthy living. Now, four years award-winning ERM materials are now in new online library of healthy tips and recipes can be downloaded for free at

Dayle HayesDayle Hayes, MS, RD
Author, Speaker, and Nutrition Therapist

Dayle Hayes is a registered dietitian committed to innovative, delicious nutrition solutions for busy families. As a consultant to Billings Clinic, she specializes in positive nutrition tips, eating disorders, and sports nutrition. Dayle graduated from U. Mass-Boston and received a Masters of Science in Community Health Education from U. Mass-Amherst.
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