Replace Sodium and Empty Calories with Wholesome Foods to 'Get Your Plate in Shape' during National Nutrition Month

September 4, 2013

Originally published March 12, 2012

Grocery store shelves and restaurant menus are often crowded with foods containing solid fats, added sugars and high levels of sodium. During National Nutrition Month®, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is helping Americans understand how to get the most nutrients they need from the foods they eat, all surrounding this year's theme: "Get Your Plate in Shape."

"When people eat foods that have added sugars and solid fats, they are consuming extra calories they don't need," says registered dietitian and Academy Spokesperson Angela Ginn. "These 'empty calories' are found in a number of foods and drinks and offer little-to-no nutritional benefits."

Foods high in solid fats (like sausage, shortening and cream) and added sugars (such as regular soda and pastries) should be considered occasional treats rather than regular options. Eating these foods on a regular basis can cause you to consume more calories than your body needs in one day.

"Replace these foods with nutritionally sound choices, like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy," Ginn says. "Eating occasional treats is okay. Just make sure to balance out those treats with healthier options and get plenty of exercise."

In addition to limiting foods high in solid fats and added sugars, consumers should also be aware of high levels of sodium in foods, especially pre-made options like frozen meals and canned soups and vegetables. Foods containing high levels of sodium are contributors to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

"The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming only 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, which is about one teaspoon of salt," Ginn says. "While meeting this recommendation may seem hard at first, choosing foods that are lower in sodium is one big step you can take towards meeting this goal.

-Reprinted with permission of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.