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Experts advise dividing plate into fourths for good nutrition

By: Laura Newell, Telegraph staff writer
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As National Nutrition Month winds down, local health advocates are reminding people to watch what they eat. This year’s theme is to “get your plate in shape,” said Kathy Kennedy Mason, a local dietitian serving Folsom, El Dorado Hills and the surrounding regions throughout Placervillle, Sacramento and Auburn. She said the theme is a reminder to separate food into fourths on the plate — fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. “The month calls attention to eating healthy and eating from ‘the rainbow’ to get different colored fruits and vegetables everyday,” Mason said. “This is important because people are not eating enough fruits and veggies and too many refined grains. Focus on enjoying your food, but eating less of it. Just remember smaller portions and more variety. It’s all about variety, balance and moderation.” National Nutrition Month started in 1973 to help focus attention on healthy food choices and incorporating physical activity. Mason said the month is a reminder about the basics of healthy eating and getting good balance of whole foods and good variety with fruits and vegetables. Now that spring is here, many people are thinking about summer weather and bathing suit season, she said. So when dieting, she said it’s important to include a goal of healthy eating, not just weight loss. “I focus on teaching the basics of healthy eating — getting enough fruits, veggies, grains, fiber and protein,” she said. “A fourth of your plate should include all these options during meals. Also trying to eat smaller portions and eating on smaller plates.” Mason works with all ages from toddlers to senior citizens. “The most common issue that I see is people having unhealthy goals,” she said. “My patients are taught to eat mindfully. When they eat, they need to only be eating, not multitasking while eating. Then they can taste their food and enjoy it. Otherwise their brain doesn’t realize that they have been eating and that is how over eating occurs. It’s all about paying attention.” Meghan Langbehn, 14, of Folsom, has been working with Mason for few a months. Meghan is a student and competitive athlete. She is learning to maintain a healthy diet with enough calories to sustain a healthy body type for a young athlete. “(Mason) has been really easy to work with for a young girl,” said Meghan’s mom, Pam. “She helps Meghan find a variety of options to fit her personal body type.” Brenda Dobbs, 63, of Carmichael, has been working with Mason for three years. “I started going to see her while I was dealing with some health issues. I was referred over to her by my family physician,” Dobbs said. “I was always someone who preferred to do things naturally rather than through medication.” Mason worked with Dobbs to create a balanced diet to improve her health. “I have not always balanced my weight through healthy ways and I could never make the final connection to food and my health,” Dobbs said. “(Mason) has helped me understand a basic sense of my metabolism related to the food I eat.” Dobbs said having the support and guidance of Mason through her nutritional transformation has benefited her overall process in getting healthier. “She is able to keep me focused on the journey,” Dobbs said. “For me, she took a lifelong problem I struggled with and helped me understand it. I learned how my lifestyle needs to go with my eating habits. This has in turn helped me function at a more optimal level through life’s distractions.” She said understanding and practicing healthier eating habits will make someone’s overall health improve. “For me, a balanced nutrition level helps keep me energized and active socially,” Dobbs said. “Also, as I get older, I need more energy. So healthy nutrition helps me get to my end goal of understanding my metabolism and what my body needs.” For more nutritional information and guidance, contact Mason at Kathykennedymason@yahoo.com or (916) 717-5962.