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Build A Healthy Plate

By Staff | Nov 20, 2012

During a presentation given on budgeting calories, Robin Dawson, Health Educator at the Life Center, suggests using a smaller plate and to think about what goes on your plate. She recommends to make half your plate fruits and vegetables with lots of color.

MUNCY – Counting calories is no easy task, but it is an ideal way to stay in control of weight gain. Earlier in the fall, education director, Robin Dawson, who is also a retired RN gave a presentation at the Life Center on how to track caloric intake in order to maintain a healthy weight. Based on her own experiences, she made recommendations and identified resources to help keep a balanced nutritional lifestyle. Each participant was given a personalized report based on weight, height and age to determine how many calories are needed to lose excess weight or gain much needed weight to the energy burned each day.

For example, if a woman weighs 120 pounds, only 1600 calories are needed each day to keep that weight. It takes about 500 calories a day to burn or eliminate in order to lose one pound in a week. Working at the Life Center at the Lycoming Mall as director and health educator gives Dawson many an opportunity to counsel on nutrition and proper weight.

No doubt many of us will eat more than needed over the holidays, so tracking the calories can help decide on how many to cut back or burn off through exercise. “Intake vs. outake,” said Dawson. “We need physical activity to lose weight. That activity should be about 150 minutes a week.” She recommends to watch sodium levels, fat levels and sugars. Large consumption of these can lead to many diseases.

Build a healthy plate and aim to make half of it with fruits and vegetables, recommends Dawson. “Watch the various food groups to guide you,” she said while handing out packets of information on foods and supplements. Each participant had a daily food plan organized in advance by Dawson based on information given to her when the participants, who were mostly women, registered. Each food group under grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and protein foods helped to determine the balance between food and physical activity. For example, a woman should aim for at least 3 ounces of whole grains a day. Food charts and worksheets were also given. “Women need 3 dairy products a day that include 1200 milligrams of calcium fortified with vitamin D,” added Dawson. As a guideline, she pointed to www.choosemyplate.gov to build a healthy plate. The other half should be lean proteins and grains. Beware of starchy vegetables (potatoes) versus those that are non-starchy (green beans). Corn is considered a grain, and iceberg lettuce has no nutritional value.

“Choose different colors of the rainbow for foods.” Vegetable gardens can produce a high yield with powerful nutrients. “For grains, watch for the word ‘enrich’ on the back of the bread labels,” advised Dawson. “It should read 100 percent whole grains, not a blend. And check for fiber sources. We need 3 grams or more per serving.” Grains are an important food source and one half of all grains consumed should be whole grains to help balance metabolism and a healthy digestive tract.

Avoid extra fat often seen in many processed foods. “Mono-saturated fats and trans fats are more detrimental,” Dawson said. “The key word is partially hydrogenated oils. They are trans fats. No more than one percent of trans fats are needed. Read the labels.” Dawson added that the FDA can publicly announce on the label that a product is 0 percent trans fat if it is under one half gram per serving. The same is true for sugars. “There are many hidden trans fats. Know the food sources,” she advises. “And watch the portion sizes!”


Meat and dairy products are high in saturated fats. Here are some guidelines to follow this Thanksgiving.


Chicken breast, meat only roasted 1/2 breast 4 grams 218

Turkey, light meat, roasted 3 oz. 3 grams 132

Chicken thigh meat only, roasted 3 oz. 6 grams 109

Chicken drumstick, skin pan fried 1 drumstick 7 grams 120

Turkey, ground lean 4 oz. 8 grams 160

Turkey, dark meat, roasted 3 oz. 6 grams 157

Source: USDA handbook 8