By: Caroline Steele, MS, RD, CSP, IBCLC, clinical nutrition and lactation services manager at CHOC Children’s
For almost 100 years, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been developing educational tools to provide nutrition information and help Americans make healthier food choices. The original 1916 guide has been updated and reinvented over the years as our knowledge of nutrition and cultural influences have changed. You may be most familiar with the Food Guide Pyramid which was introduced in 1992 and has served as a nutritional resource for almost 20 years.
Now the next generation food guide from the USDA is available! MyPlate was unveiled on June 2, 2011 by First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The intent of MyPlate is to prompt consumers to think about “building a healthy plate at meal times.” MyPlate will make it easier to put nutrition recommendations into practice by focusing on one meal at a time.
Eating healthy can seem complicated. There is so much nutrition information available and so many food choices that actually deciding what to put on your dinner plate can be daunting and feel time consuming. MyPlate makes it easy. No matter how busy you are, one quick look at your plate can show you if you are getting the variety you need to stay healthy.
Compare the foods on your plate with the MyPlate icon. How does it compare? Are there food groups that you should be eating more of? Less of? All foods fit into a healthy diet—it’s just a matter of balance.
Some hints for a healthier table:
• Enjoy your food, but eat less.
• Avoid oversized portions.
Foods to Increase
• Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
• Choose whole grains whenever possible.
• Switch to fat-free or low fat (1%) milk.
• Choose lean sources of protein such as lean meats, chicken, fish, and beans.
Foods to Reduce
• Compare labels for processed foods such as canned soups and frozen meals; choose those with lower amounts of sodium (salt).
• Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
Make it fun and use MyPlate as a family! Have kids draw the MyPlate icon then compare it to their own plates. Getting children involved in mealtimes and food choices can help them be healthier and make better nutrition decisions as they get older.
So dig in! Good nutrition and healthy eating are as close as your plate.
Where can I get more information?
Go to MyPlate.gov for more information, interactive tools, and sample meals.
Visit eatright.org, the website of the American Dietetic Association for information on a variety of topics including healthy weight loss, nutrition for life, and food safety.