It’s National Nutrition Month 2021! This year, the focus is to “Personalize your Plate.” And I’ve got to be honest, this is one of my favorite themes in recent years. Why? I see way too many clients trying to do what their neighbor recommended, what their friends do, what has become popular in social media, or what they saw in a commercial. Everyone has become a nutrition expert and people too easily get away from sound, research-informed nutrition recommendations. Talk around nutrition has become “black and white”….eat this, but don’t eat this. We’ve lost our touch with individualized recommendations that are unique to each person. We’ve lost touch with the concept of flexibility in an eating plan.

Let’s think through this:

  • If you’ve got diabetes, you’re going to eat carbs in moderation and in rhythm with your medications to keep your blood sugar stable.
  • If you’re an endurance athlete, needs for carbs are high to optimize your glycogen stores (the stored form of carbohydrate in the body) to support performance.
  • If you’re significantly underweight, your metabolism may go on overdrive during refeeding and you may need greater than 3000 calories a day, even though weight is extremely low.
  • If you have binge eating disorder, you’re needing to make sure you eat enough during the day to prevent excessive hunger cues in the evening.
  • If you value organic produce because of an environmental focus, you may be purchasing all organic foods and have a much higher food budget.
  • If you’re struggling financially, you may purchase more canned and frozen produce to keep grocery costs down.

The point is that no matter what stage of life you’re in, what your diagnosis is, what your budget is, you can be a well-nourished individual and meet your nutrient needs in different ways. You can also honor your food preferences along the way. If you don’t like kale, don’t eat it. Taste is the #1 reason people choose their foods – if you take taste out of the equation, then your food plan is unlikely to last. And that’s the goal, right? To create a long-term eating plan that fits your lifestyle, your budget and your nutrition needs.

By way of example, this is how “personalizing your plate” applies to me.

  • I’m a part-time working mom and I love to be out and about with my kids when I’m home = I usually make quick-cooking meals. I make a lot of stir-frys, breakfast for dinner, burritos, oven-baked chicken, vegetable quesadillas and other simple meals.
  • My children currently get free meals from the school district and I don’t like to waste food = I use all that we are given to create meals. For example, I add avocado to their bean and cheese burritos or use their rice and chicken to create a stir fry with vegetables and a touch of soy sauce.
  • I exercise about 3-4 times a week and I’m hungry every 3 hours = I need to fuel myself well and do so by eating 3 meals and 2-3 snacks a day.
  • I want to support local restaurants = we eat dinner out once a week…. from a different restaurant each week.
  • I recognize the value of all foods and want to model that for my family = there is no food I keep out of my diet and I keep a variety of food in the home (unless I just don’t like it, of course! No gooey foods for me…I can’t do marshmallows, crème brulee, pudding, cream-filled doughnuts or jello!).
  • I’m a dietitian = I focus on variety, moderation and balance. Plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, fats, dairy and some fun treats along the way (right now that happens to be Girl Scout cookies).
  • I live in the Central Valley = I support our farmers and get our milk delivered weekly, go to Farmers markets, and visit the fruit stands on the side of the road.

I’m sure you get the picture now. So what about you? I look forward to seeing what you come up with as you personalize your plate.

Happy Eating!