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Personalize Your Plate

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Nashville, Ark. –

What changes can I make to improve my eating habits?

“Personalize Your Plate” is the theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month, which is celebrated during the month of March. The goal of National Nutrition Month is to focus on making informed food choices and developing sound eating and exercise habits. No two people are alike, and their nutrition needs differ according to age and activity level.

            Cooking foods at home and from scratch is a great way to insure you and your family are getting health benefits. Healthy people are encouraged to plan and serve healthy, balanced meals and snacks on a regular basis. This can be a challenge when family schedules get busy with ball practice, school work, social and church activities. However, the benefits of eating nutritious foods and enjoying a meal together as a family are worth it.

            When planning meals for your family, be sure to choose foods packed with lots of nutrition. Nutrient-dense foods are naturally lean or low in fat, sugar and sodium. Foods in their natural state, meaning they have not had any preparation steps done, are usually nutrient dense foods. Examples include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, lean cuts of meat, and low-fat dairy options.

            Here are some suggestions for making small changes your family can live with and help them to improve their eating habits.

  • Start the family’s day with a nutritious breakfast.
  • Make sure your plate is half full with vegetables and fruit.
  • Make sure at least half of the grains (breads) you eat are whole grains.
  • Talk positively about eating healthy foods. Your children will listen.
  • Work to plan and create meals that work best for you and your family. There are lots of recipes that are quick-to-prepare (30 minutes or less) and are very nutritious! Look for those recipes.

            Making small changes in the kitchen and at the dinner table is just one part of becoming healthier over time. Improving overall well-being requires a lifelong commitment to healthful lifestyle behaviors, including physical activity. As a parent, encourage your child or children to get outside and have fun! Better yet, spend time with them outside exercising. Walking, playing sports, gardening are just a few of the many activities you can do together as a family. Set the example for your children!

            For more information on planning healthy meals, contact the Howard County Extension Service located on the second floor of the courthouse. You can also check out the website or

            Information for this article was adapted from from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Gingered Vegetable Stir-Fry with Cashews Recipe

            Stir fry is a great way to incorporate more vegetables in your family meals. They are quick-to-fix and easy! Stir-fry — often associated with Asian cooking — is frying small pieces of food quickly over high heat in a large skillet or wok, stirring constantly. Not only is stir-frying a lower fat cooking method, it also helps fresh vegetables retain their nutrient-rich benefits, bright colors and crisp textures. This recipe is from

  • 1 pound fresh broccoli
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (6-ounce) package frozen snow peas, thawed
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 green onions, cut in 2-inch lengths
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cashew nuts
  1. Cut the broccoli tops in florets; set aside. Cut carrots in matchsticks.
  2. Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over high heat.
  3. Add the carrots and garlic. Stir-fry (or cook and stir continuously) for 1 minute.
  4. Add the broccoli florets, snow peas, mushrooms, ginger and green onions. Toss gently to mix ingredients.
  5. Combine the water, soy sauce, and sugar in a small bowl. Stir into the vegetable mixture. Cover; cook for about 2 minutes, until vegetables are fork tender. Remove from heat.
  6. Drizzle the sesame oil over vegetables; toss gently.
  7. To serve, sprinkle with cashew nuts.

Yield: 8 (3/4 cup) servings

Note: In place of any of these vegetables — or in addition to them — use sliced bell peppers, carrots, green beans, summer squash or zucchini.

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories: 130; Calories from fat: 70; Total fat: 7g;

Sodium: 160mg; Total carbohydrates: 12g; Dietary fiber: 3g; Sugars: 3g; Protein: 5g

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517

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The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

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