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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

March 29, 2023 - 8:43am --

Make good choices.

It’s a favorite piece of advice teachers give their students. It also works well for deciding what foods we eat and how much exercise we fit into our schedule.

National Nutrition Month, celebrated in March, stresses the importance of a balanced diet and exercise. In its 50th year, the campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, helps families focus on healthy eating by encouraging them to try new fruits and vegetables and explore new ways to enhance flavors in food with herbs and spices or citrus fruit like lemon or lime.

Other recommendations by the academy include:

  • Give family members a role in meal planning and let them pick out different recipes to try.
  • Plan to eat more meals together as a family.
  • Practice mindful eating by limiting screen time at mealtime - including phones, computers, television, and other devices.
  • Involving everyone in food preparation - a skill for people of all ages. For children, there are age-appropriate tasks they may enjoy.
  • If you watch television, take breaks during commercials to be physically active.

In the 4-H program, a variety of food and nutrition projects empower youth to be healthy - mind and body - with skills to make healthy decisions and lead healthy lifestyles. The projects help members develop knowledge, skills and understanding of nutrition, menu planning, safe food handling, fitness and meal and time management and food and nutrition-related careers.

Plate full of veggies, fruits, grains, proteins

All 4-H food and nutrition projects use MyPlate, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s official symbol of the five food groups. The colorful divided plate includes sections for vegetables, fruits, grains, and protein foods.

Vegetables and fruits should take up half the plate and grains and protein foods each take up a quarter of the plate. A side helping of dairy is a reminder to include milk or another dairy food like cheese or yogurt in your daily meal plan.

“Choose MyPlate for A Healthier You” is an opening activity in the Everyday Food and Fitness 4-H project. Members are asked to take a closer look at their food choices based on MyPlate by recording what they eat throughout the day. Are they eating a variety of foods from each food group? Do they choose foods and beverages that are low in fat, sodium, and added sugars?

The project follows MyPlate advice to start simple. The benefits of healthy eating add up over time, bite by bite. Small changes matter. A healthy eating routine is important at every stage of life. It can have positive effects that add up over time.

Also, choose options that are full of nutrients. Eating foods that are packed with nutrients instead of empty calories makes you feel full and satisfied after meals.

'Grain detectives' solves the mysteries

In the Everyday Food and Fitness project, the member becomes a “grain detective” to figure out which foods fall in the grain group and what the label says about the content of whole grain. The project also asks the 4-H’er to:

  •  “Eat the rainbow” when it comes to vegetables because those colors provide clues about which vitamins and minerals they offer.
  •  “Get fruity with your food” because not only do fruits taste good, but they are also “naturally low in fat, sodium and calories, which make them a great “fast food.”
  • “Pass the cheese please. If your bones could send you a text, they would ask you to make sure to eat dairy products every day. Dairy foods, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, are good sources of calcium, potassium, Vitamin D and protein.

          Other projects focus on different aspects of nutrition. Snack Attack! features activities and related recipes for healthful snacks; Take a Break for Breakfast focuses on starting the day with a nutritious breakfast; Sports Nutrition: Ready, Set, Go, deals with eating well and exercising; and Racing the Clock to Awesome Meals focuses on the knowledge and skills needed to prepare quick, nutritious, low-cost meals.

          4-H’ers have a wealth of opportunities to explore nutrition and fitness. Let’s join them in creating our own healthy habits.  If you are interested in joining 4-H, contact our office before the April 1 deadline at 330-264-8722

Laurie Sidle is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences program assistant and may be reached at 330-64-8722 or
This article was previously published in The Daily Record.