This is the first of a series of articles leading up to the May 2 Healthy Melrose Family Wellness and Fitness Fair.


Nutrition Manager, Hallmark Health System

As the mountains of snow around us begin to melt and the birds and squirrels start to resurface after what felt like an eternal winter, it’s time to shift gears and think about the warmer days soon to come. March is National Nutrition Month; the perfect time for us to put a spotlight on eating healthy.

To make strides toward a healthier lifestyle, it’s important to go back to the basics. Sometimes the most impactful change we can make in our diets is reducing the volume of food we consume. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, our per capita calorie consumption has increased by 24.5 percent or about 530 calories between 1970 and the turn of the century. Interestingly enough, the size of our dinnerware has increased in similar proportions. In the 1960s, the standard dinner plate was nine inches. Most dinner plates today are 12-13 inches in diameter. Do you have a smaller salad plate in your kitchen cabinet? Chances are your salad plate is right on the money, at 7-9 inches in diameter. By switching to a smaller plate, you’ll be able to enjoy a full plate of food without the feeling of depravity.

Now that we’ve tackled the size of your plate, what are we putting on it? Rather than getting bogged down with counting calories or measuring foods, the Plate Method may be enough to get your meals on track. First, make an imaginary line down the center of your plate. Half of the plate should be vegetables and fruit. The other half of the plate can be divided in half again making quarters, with one quarter grains and the other quarter protein.

And here are some other tips to help get your meals on track:

• Substitute refined white products for wheat, such as whole wheat bread instead of white bread or bulgar or quinoa instead of white rice.

• If you drink whole or 2 percent milk, try switching to 1 percent or skim for fewer calories and saturated fat. Unsweetened soy milk is another great choice. Almond and coconut milk are becoming popular but contain very little protein compared to soy and cow’s milk.

• Experiment with non-meat protein such as beans, eggs, tempeh or tofu. Try incorporating fish into your diet 1-2 times per week. Be mindful of added salt in marinades, breading and pre-seasoned protein.

• Hydrate with water, try eliminating or cutting back on soda, energy drinks and juice. If juice is a staple in your diet, limit it to less than six ounces per day.

Fad diets are generally effective for rapid weight loss but oftentimes they lead to very regimented and restricted meal plans which are difficult to maintain over time, leading to weight re-gain. Small, incremental changes like using a smaller plate and following the plate method are steps you can take to becoming healthier that will last a lifetime.

Hallmark Health System (HHS) is committed to keeping our neighbors healthy. As a community healthcare system, health and wellness is part of our everyday lives and we want it to be part of yours.

Please learn more about how HHS can help you become a healthier you at the Healthy Melrose Family Wellness and Fitness Fair on Saturday, May 2 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.