As part of her seventh grade health class, Hannah created an account at ChooseMyPlate.org. Choose My Plate is a web site produced by the USDA that helps you track your meals and encourages you to make healthy eating choices. It dovetails well with our family conversations about healthy diets. I told Hannah that if she signed up and worked on improving her diet, I’d do it too.
We started yesterday and last night we entered our meals for the day into the Food Tracker tool. It allows you to select individual foods, or dishes, and assign them to a meal. The tool measures your food intake against a recommended caloric intake based on your current height, weight, and goals.
I’d like to lose a few pounds. The tool suggests that I have a maximum of 2,000 calories per day. It outlines how those calories should be divided between grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy, and protein. The tool was easy to use, but didn’t always give us the flexibility that we wanted in selecting foods. For example, there are a variety of choices for yogurt, but Greek yogurt is not on the list. It’s got a very different nutritional make-up than does traditional yogurt.
Here’s how my day looked – well within my overall calories, but over on protein. The tool also identifies how many “empty calories” you have. All of this is outlined in a graph that paints a clear picture of your eating habits, driving home where you should make improvements. Immediately, Hannah saw that she needed to decrease her grain intake and up her vegetable and fruit intake. I think this tool is going to help her better understand the value of well-balanced meals.
What I find a bit curious is that it says my sodium intake is too high – without adding salt to a single item. Most of my diet came from whole, natural foods. One serving of Greek yogurt, one slice of Swiss cheese, and one slice of lean deli ham are the extent of my processed food.
“Empty calories” are measured. I was doing just fine on that front until I added in the one class of Chardonnay I had with my stir-fry at dinner.
After you enter your meals for the day, you can view a nutritional report. My nutritional status shows a need to increase my dietary fiber. Joy.
Here was the real wake-up call for me. Based on my one day of tracking, I’m low in vitamins B12, E, and D. My “target” for vitamin D is 12 µg and my intake was only 2 µg. I’ve got some work to do there.
I’m not sure how long we’ll stick with this. I’m willing to do it for as long as I can keep Hannah interested. I hope that this exercise will help shape her healthy eating habits.