Whose plate is turning “one” today? Yours!

In case you didn’t know, today is a special day: Happy 1st Birthday, ChooseMyPlate.Gov!

While I haven’t personally been utilizing this great resource, a cursory look at the website today has impressed me. With a clean, user-friendly interface for the Internet surfer, you can learn about all of your basic food groups: Fruit, veggies, grains, and protein foods, as well as oils and dairy. They give you an idea on how much should be in your plate of each, how to measure them, and the health benefits of each, among other helpful tips. The site also has some great tabs with other related information regarding physical activity (how to be more active, and why), weight management tips/tools and resources (BMI calculator, calorie burning charts to help you keep focused, etc), healthy eating tips, and a helpful little chart regarding empty calorie foods. Empty calories are foods high in energy-providing calories from solid fats and/or added sugars, but contain little to no nutritional value. I even saved this chart to my computer, myself.

Good stuff.

While the website itself is great for navigating your nutrition choices, the USDA has certainly established its presence on all manner of social media, as well. Want to get more interactive with your plate? Take a photo of your ChooseMyPlate inspired meal, and post it in their Flickr Pool (this actually excites me a little, where is my camera??). Want nutrition and food-related news from the government and legislative side? Like the USDA’s page on Facebook. Want tips and healthy eating reminders and resources? Head on over to their Twitter page.

And then there’s the USDA on YouTube, with sundry videos on everything from new food safety cell phone apps to new endeavors taken on by the USDA to help consumers eat, and shop, healthier.

Talk about a cornucopia of information for the nutritionally ambitious. So head on over to wish ChooseMyPlate a happy birthday, and while you’re at it, see what they have to offer. You might learn a thing or two you didn’t know that you didn’t know about your dinner plate.

Eat well, everyone!

Reinvigorating your healthy New Year’s resolution

By Lindsey Gemme

We’re one month into the new year already. So how’s that New Year’s resolution coming along? Let me guess—and stop me if you’ve heard this before—“I’m going to start exercising more, eating better, and lose ‘x-amount’ of pounds in 2012”? I thought so. Those professions of personal betterment are in the top 10 resolutions Americans make every year, right along with quitting smoking, and getting a better education.

Surprisingly, only about 67 percent of Americans make resolutions each year. But of that small pool of annual oath-makers, according to Cone Health: The Network for Exceptional Care, about 19 percent of Americans make a pact with themselves to lose weight in the new year, and about 10 percent have ambitions of fitting in more exercise into their lives.

The bad wrap resolutions get is, unfortunately, well-earned. Only one in five Americans (about 20 percent) manage to carry out their resolutions for a full year.

And the shocker? A whopping 35 percent don’t even get their resolutions off the ground and into practice. They merely stay in the “wouldn’t it be nice someday” idea box. After all, there’s always next year.

But I get it. Taking health into our own hands is often times a difficult task, especially if you aren’t used to doing it. And trying to start coming right out of the holiday nutrient stupor is a challenge in itself. Making an exercise regiment when you are grievously out of shape is easily off-putting. I’ve been there. For the instant-gratification generation we’ve become, it’s nearly torture to stick it out until we start seeing results.

And giving up those high-salt and high-sugar treats for plain veggies and fruits can feel like a chore, especially for those who don’t have that much experience in the kitchen and know how to spice things up.

Also, doing it all on your own is another nail in that resolution’s coffin. If you don’t have a friend or mentor to keep you on the straight and narrow, it makes it too easy for a person to slack, and eventually give up. The buddy-system is not for the weak. It’s for the determined.

When making resolutions, you have to mean what you say. Put together a plan that will not only help you attain your goal realistically, but put a plan into place that will also hold you accountable as you journey into the great unknown. Put in safeguards that will guarantee to put that fire under your butt when you start falling behind. We all need it!

And we have to make time for it. We all have made the same complaint at least once in our lives: We don’t have time. Sometimes you just have to make it a priority for some things and just do it. You’ll be surprised what other things fall away that aren’t that important – and how much time you used to waste flipping through TV channels or scrolling through your Facebook or Twitter feeds.

The world wide web has a cache of gems all over the place to solve problems like this, if you know where to Google. Here are some ideas to get your goals into a weekly practice.

If you’re looking for groups or partners to get together regularly for the same purpose of exercise, there are options. For support groups, visit either Peer Trainer, or Meet-Up.com for groups interested in doing fitness together.

Don’t have any support groups near you? Start your own! Meetup.com is a handy social site that allows you to start a group with any theme or intention in mind, from general social outings, to quilting. Invite people, and get a team going!

Here are some other helpful links to get you started:

Healthy Eating
Some parts of the “eating healthy and exercising more” process is a little more solitary. Learning what to eat and how to eat can be confusing, as there are so many sources out there. And they seemingly conflict each other on a regular basis.

The Academy Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) website Eatright.org/, the official organization for professional dieticians, has any number of resources for those wanting to learn feed their bodies right. VisitAND’s website and read up on any recent food news, or get information on basic nutrition, and healthy, fast recipes – for you, and your family.

Oh wait: There’s an app for that.

Right? Of course. There’s an “app” for everything these days for our cell phones. If you’re always on the go, but live and die by your cell phone, have AND help you discern what apps are right for you. To read the reviews on the sundry health apps, go to AND’s website for information on weight management, gluten-free diet, and diabetes-related app information.

Tracking Your Progress
Once you’ve figured out how to eat right, it takes a little practice, and a little work, to track your dietary choices, and how to correct those offending eating habits.Some people are more visual, so being able to chart your progress can be very satisfying. There are sundry ways to do this. In the age of the Internet, you can google “online fitness logs” and get any number of websites (like FitDay or Online Logs websites) dedicated to giving you a space to chart your fitness goals.

Or for those that are a little more tactile, there are plenty of websites that offer downloads and printable sheets to help you chart your progress manually. Alternatively, for those not extremely comfortable with the computer, check out http://www.amazon.com or your local bookstore for a “fitness diary” or “nutrition diary.

Need a hand calculating those calories and carbs for your logs? It’s probably one of the trickiest parts about learning how to lose weight properly. But don’t worry, no problem! A great desk reference guide is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’s (formally known as the American Dietetics Association), Complete Guide to Carb Counting, which lists the nutrition information for everything from blueberries to a baked potato.Now you have the tools – good luck, and may you go forth and live a healthier 2012!