Earlier this month the food guide pyramid was officially replaced by a simpler tool to help Americans make healthy choices at every meal. The new icon is called MyPlate; it symbolizes the core messages of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans by emphasizing plant-based meals with appropriate ratios of foods from each food group.
The icon is self-explanatory: fruits and vegetables take up half of the plate while the other half is split between grains and protein. Next to the plate, a serving of dairy accompanies each meal. Along with the icon, a few basic guidelines help describe how to select foods to fill your plate:
- Enjoy your food, but eat less.
- Avoid over-sized portions.
Foods to Increase:
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
- Make at least half of your grains whole grains.
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk.
Foods to Reduce:
- Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals – and choose foods with lower numbers.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
This practical tool should be easier to relate to everyday eating habits than the more complicated MyPyramid. The average American dinner plate will need to change to fit this guide; many Americans will notice that their current dinner plates have excess amounts of animal protein and refined grains compared to MyPlate. Following this guide, the new American plate will be lower in calories and higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals: crucial ingredients in the recipe for chronic disease prevention.
You may notice that dietary fat is missing from the MyPlate icon. Fat has many essential roles in the body including absorbing and distributing the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Even though the MyPlate icon does not address this, don't forget to include 1 - 2 tablespoons of healthy oils (mono- and polyunsaturated fats such as olive or canola oil) per day.
Although the main focus of MyPlate is the correct proportions between food groups, we cannot forget about correct portion sizes. The icon does not accurately reflect or describe appropriate serving sizes. For more information on serving sizes, which foods fit into each section of the plate, and ideas on creating healthy meals using the MyPlate example, check out the website www.choosemyplate.gov.
Please note: Educational materials on the Choose My Plate website have been updated for certain populations (the general population, pregnancy and breastfeeding, and weight loss) based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. For now, the resources for kids and preschoolers still reflect the MyPyramid recommendations.