Enjoying combination dishes for a healthy diet

Determining how your combination dishes fit into the MyPlate plan can help you enjoy a healthy diet.

The USDA’s MyPlate outlines the food groups that are the building blocks for good health. The plate visual can be found in a wide variety of places reminding us to incorporate foods from each food group into our diets on a daily basis. The food groups and recommendations include: Fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy, and how many daily servings to enjoy from each food group. But the reality is that many of us need to make improvements in our diets. Determining how to balance you diet with food from all food groups can be tricky, especially when you prepare and eat a lot of combination or mixed dishes.

This aspect of healthy eating can be confusing as you try to track your food intake. Combination or mixed dishes can include numerous food items like casseroles, soups, sandwiches and stews. These items can definitely contribute to a healthy diet and help you enjoy foods from many food groups at one time. For example, spaghetti and meatballs can provide you with food from the grain, protein and vegetable group and possibly even dairy group if you add cheese to your spaghetti. The MyPlate website has a chart for mixed dishes to help you determine which food groups are included, as well as calorie estimates for some combination or mixed dishes. Michigan State University Extension says to use this chart as a guide to help you figure out how those mixed dishes can fit into a healthy diet.

Combination dishes are great foods to include in your weekly menus. They can be easy to prepare, cook and reheat as leftovers and can be a helpful in stretching your food dollar as well. Most importantly combination dishes can provide you with foods from various food groups helping you reach a balanced diet full of nutrients.

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