Have You Done A Plate Check Lately?

Portion sizes

Stephanie Karpinske, R.D. is the Lehman family’s nutrition coach for the Healthy Family Challenge.

You always hear that you should eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. But what’s a serving? Five baby carrots? Half a banana? Serving sizes can be confusing because they vary for different fruits and vegetables. So rather than trying to figure out how much lettuce equals a serving or how many grapes fill a cup, simply do a quick “plate check.”

Before you start a meal, review what’s on your plate. Half of it should contain fruits and veggies. If it doesn’t, you need to make some adjustments. I asked the Lehmans to do the “plate check” at every meal as a reminder to eat more fruits and vegetables. If their plate was mostly meat and grains, they could see that they needed to add more fruits and veggies to their meals. If they had vegetables at a meal but no fruit, they knew to include fruit as a snack later in the day.

The “half-plate” rule is easy to remember so it’s great for kids. It’s also helpful when you’re eating out. For instance, if you have a choice of sides and you’re thinking of the “half-plate” rule, you may decide to order a vegetable side dish or a salad instead of rice, pasta, or bread.

Give the “plate check” a try. And if you want to see a visual for how to divide your plate, go to

What’s the usual make-up of your plates? Post a comment and let me know!

Through her Des Moines-based nutrition company, SK Health Communications, registered dietitian Stephanie Karpinske writes and develops recipes for magazines, books, supermarkets and food companies. She is the author of Read Before Dieting: Your 4-Step Plan for Diet Success and writes a blog about healthy eating, She’s coaching the Lehman family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.

Make Small Changes, Lose Weight

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Fruits and vegetables weren’t the highlight of the Avagliano family‘s diet. But as the challenge gets rolling their servings continue to increase–and that behavior change can make a huge impact on the family’s health over time.

But the key is small changes. If you go out of the gate too ambitious, it’s hard to stick to the plan. Sure, it’s easy to be motivated in the beginning. But it’s the long term that matters. Most people can lose weight. It’s about maintaining the weight loss and, more importantly, continuing the healthy behaviors.

When you adapt a new behavior (such as switching your snack from a brownie to an apple like Peter did while he was busy working on a set for a show), make sure it’s a reasonable goal you can stick to. That’s what Peter did. He made a change he knew he could commit to.

Believing you can make a change is necessary before you can make the switch. Think back to dietary swaps you’ve tried to make that failed. Did you really believe you could stick to them? Believing is one of the important components of the theory of behavior change. Then once that behavior becomes a habit, you can add another small change. Peter progressed to making vegetables half of his dinner plate or at least on the dinner plate every night.

Remember: Weight gain or poor eating habits don’t usually happen overnight. So trying to fix them in a hurry won’t work. Slow and steady wins the race.

What’s a small change you believe you can make starting this week? Post a comment and tell me! Making it public will help hold you accountable.

Registered dietician Elizabeth Fassberg runs Eat Food, a New York City-based company that designs and delivers custom food and nutrition programs for businesses, organizations and individuals. She’s coaching the Avagliano family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.

Challenge Yourself: How to Choose Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Orange fruits and vegetables

Peggy has found that if she starts each morning with a serving of fruit, she stays on track and eats more fruits and veggies throughout the day.

The easiest way to follow her lead is to keep a small supply of fresh produce in your home–after all, you’re more likely to eat well if healthy food is readily available. But for that to happen, you’ll have to shop for it. And that can be tricky if you’re just starting to eat more fresh fruits and veggies.

Check out our guidelines for selecting fresh fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. The tips will help you choose the most flavorful produce that won’t go bad overnight.

What tips do you have for choosing produce? Share in the comments below.

Peggy, Week 1: Trying to Eat Healthy Abroad

I have noticed a few things while trying to keep up this challenge abroad. In London, most places do not have side salads with dinner—although you can get one with an omelets in the morning?! I find that I eat healthier through the day, if I start with fruit in the morning. So that’s what I’ve been aiming to do.

We have not managed more than 3-5 servings of veggies and fruit per day while away. But we wouldn’t have eaten even that amount if it weren’t for the challenge.

At home, my husband, Peter, and son, Michael, have been working on the set for a high school play: “Into the Woods.” They have been having their own challenge of trying to eat fruits and vegetables while working until 10 pm each night. Peter has been in touch with Chef Miki and Robert Schueller (director of PR) at Melissa’s/World Variety Produce, who plan to expand our horizons. Every week, they’re going to be sending shipments of new fruits and vegetables to our house for us to try.

While the challenge is on my mind, this trip really has me reflecting about raising kids. As parents, if we do our job right, our children grow up to become independent adults who feel confident in creating their own path. We know this: after all, we left our parents to build our own lives. Yet, somehow, this process of letting them move on is much harder than I ever imagined. We drop them off at college—or the airport. We support them through the initial adjustments of college: roommate issues, how to cook that chicken dish they love. And, soon, they have settled into their new life.

At some point, we visit, and it is weird to become the visitors in our children’s lives. We meet their friends, of whom we have heard stories or read about on our children’s blogs. But we don’t really get to know their friends the way we did when our children lived at home. At some point, it is time to leave, and I can’t help but wonder: Where did the time go?

Visiting Katie in Paris and London has been amazing. I have not traveled abroad before, and it is great to have my own personal tour guide taking me to museums, leading me on and off buses and the Underground so I don’t have to worry about where to get off. I know she is becoming an impressive young woman, but sometimes,  it’s like in the movie “Father of the Bride.” You look at your daughter and you see her not as the adult she has become, but the three year old, she used to be.

Tonight, my eldest daughter, Christina, who is 20, will join us. We will have one night together, before Amanda and I head home and we are going to see Wicked. Tonight all the girls will be together!

Leave a comment and let me know how you feel about our kids growing up and moving on.

Challenge Yourself: Try New Fruits and Vegetables

Purple and blue vegetables

To help the Lehmans and Avaglianos in their quest for better nutrition, Melissa’s has been sending each family a weekly produce shipment. The goal is to introduce the teams to new fruits and veggies so they’ll be inspired to make healthier meals. Tiffany just reported that her favorite new veggie is jicama, a hearty root. She loves to eat it plain but also bakes jicama strips as a fries substitute for her kids.

If you’re also trying to eat more fruits and vegetables but aren’t sure where to start, check out this story, “Eat Bright: Healthy Fruits and Vegetables.” Research has shown that an easy way to eat healthier is to make sure your meals are colorful with a variety of fruits and veggies. This story details which ones can easily be incorporated into your diet and how they can boost your health.

What new fruit or veggie have you recently discovered? Share in the comments below.