Out with the Old, In with the New! USDA debuts MyPlate in place of MyPyramid

Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama presented the government's new version of the slightly archaic design, MyPyramid. Fittingly, this new design is called MyPlate. Instead of the 2 dimensional pyramid with a heavy focus on grains, dairy, and protein, the new design is in the shape of a plate.  Divided into three sections (looks similar to a circle graph), one half represents fruits and/or vegetables, one quarter whole grains, and one quarter lean protein.  Attached to the plate is a small side of dairy (fat-free or low-fat).  

One of the main goals the government set out to achieve with MyPlate is to teach Americans proper portion sizes, by demonstrating that you can enjoy your favorite indulgences but in small quantities.  Furthermore, the USDA also stresses serving small portions at every meal.  Most importantly, the change in design addresses high sodium and high sugar intake.  On the USDA website, they advise Americans to watch their salt consumption by decreasing their intake of frozen foods, soups, and breads, in addition to decreasing sugary beverages and replacing with water.

I believe that this is a MUCH more useful and adaptable representation for how to nourish yourself and your family.  People don't eat off pyramids.  They eat off plates.  And I think that people GREATLY benefit from seeing a visual of how to build your plate for every meal.  The USDA and the government really got it right this time around!  Don't you think?

So how do you build your plate with the new recommendations?

FRUITS AND/OR VEGETABLES - Again, make this half of your plate.  The best ways to cook veggies is to steam or lightly saute them with olive oil.  No frying in butter or covering them in a cream-based sauce.  Keep it simple.  Salt, Pepper, Olive Oil.  As for fruits, try to buy fresh.  Ditch the canned fruit - most are soaking in high fructose corn syrup and contain a ton of sugar.  Lastly, frozen fruits and veggies are a great buy and are sometimes more fresh than "fresh" (unless you are buying your produce at the Farmer's Market).

GRAINS - Grains should represent about one quarter of your plate and be the whole grain kind.  Abundant in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, you want to include brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat couscous, whole wheat pasta, whole grain bread, and/or oatmeal to your plate.  Stay away from white, processed carbohydrates.  These lack essential nutrients and are a waste of calories.

PROTEIN - Lean protein should be the final quarter of your plate.  Stick to choices low in saturated fat and calories.  Turkey, white meat chicken, pork, fish, shellfish, eggs, beans, soy, or any other vegetarian type of protein can be included.  Grill, bake, broil, or saute are the perfect methods to keep it lean and low-fat.  Skip the deep frying!

DAIRY - The last component to MyPlate is dairy.  Choose fat-free or low-fat (1%) in place of full fat dairy.  Milk, cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt can all be purchased in low-fat or fat-free options and are just as tasty.  Just be careful of the sugar content. Stay away from yogurt that has more than 12 g of sugar per serving (some even have as much sugar as a candy bar).  Greek yogurt is the best!

If you would like more information about MyPlate or suggestions for age-based serving sizes, please visit the USDA's website - http://www.choosemyplate.gov/

Here's to hoping MyPlate will help Americans develop healthier eating habits!

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Jill Latham, MS Nutrition, Food Science and Dietetics

Throughout Jill’s life, nutrition, health, and exercise have always been the cornerstones of who she is. After a stint in the entertainment business following college graduation, Jill decided to go back to school to pursue a graduate degree in Nutrition and become a Registered Dietitian. Jill has a Master's of Science in Nutrition, Food Science and Dietetics and is a soon to be Registered Dietitian. Jill truly enjoys encouraging and teaching people how to eat nutritiously and live healthy! During her four years in school, Jill realized how much she liked educating children on the importance of a healthy diet and exercise, which lead her to develop a strong interest in fighting childhood obesity. Honored to be part of ChildCareInfo.com as the Nutrition contributor, she looks forward to sharing her knowledge on how to make healthy living a part of everyone’s lives, especially our children. Jill currently resides in Santa Barbara, California with her boyfriend and dog, Madison. She also loves to juice fruits and vegetables on a daily basis and exercise regularly! Please visit Jill’s nutrition, health, exercise, & wellness blog Nutrition Concierge. Jill is Founder and CEO of Vibrant Earth Juices