The USDA Unveils MyPlate

You’ve probably heard by now that the USDA Food Guide Pyramid has officially been retired and replaced with MyPlate. Like many dietitians I’ve spoken with I am very excited about the new USDA MyPlate.
Using a plate for meal planning is nothing new in the nutrition world. Many methods we use for educating patients with diabetes or for disease prevention are already using plates. Take the American Institute for Cancer Research for example. They promote “The New American Plate,” which recommends 2/3 of our plate’s be filled with plant based foods and 1/3 dairy and milk products. The good thing is now the USDA’s My Plate correlates with these methods, which syncs and simplifies the message we are sending to consumers about healthy eating. In addition, the new MyPlate will be a great teaching tool for the public, especially kids, since it is easy to practice and apply to the way we eat.
A few changes were made to the USDA recommendations besides the shape. First, the former meat and beans group is now displayed as the protein group. Next, they changed the milk group to the dairy group and lastly they no longer display the fat group on their visual. The new group names are more inclusive and recognizable and make the overall look of the plate simple and neat. The elimination of fat on the plate is not to say that we don’t need essential fats but more to show us that we don’t need to make room for fat on our plate at each meal. Most Americans following a healthy diet get enough essential fats from natural foods such as nuts and fish. In addition, fat is often part of our plate from cooking our food in oils or from added fats like salad dressings.
There are a few main points made on the USDA’s MyPlate website but the two I I was happy to see are the things we should all focus on to consume healthy meals: choosing appropriate portion sizes and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption.  As the website states: “Enjoy your food, but eat less.” In addition, they recommend a lot of other important tips like watching the sodium content of food, choosing water, making half your grains whole grains and choosing skim or 1% milk.
Overall, it’s a great change but making the meals will still require a lot of effort. Luckily it summer and fruits and vegetables are readily available for us to start practicing!
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