What’s on your plate–and in your cup?
How many times have you heard the recommendation to “eat a well-balanced diet”? Probably so often that the saying has lost its impact—and possibly gained the power to perturb. What does “eat a well-balanced diet” mean, anyway?
Every five years since 1980, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided Americans with updated Dietary Guidelines as well as a visual representation of the recommendations to help us understand and apply them to our lives. In June 2010, MyPyramid was replaced with MyPlate, the visual representation of the recently released 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
MyPlate illustrates the five food groups that are the foundation of a healthful eating plan. The plate is divided into four sections for vegetables, fruits, grains and protein; the cup represents dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt.
• Vegetables – Make half your plate fruits and vegetables: Vary your veggies
• Fruits – Make half your plate fruits and vegetables: Focus on fruit
• Grains – Make at least half your grains whole grains
• Milk and milk products – Get your calcium-rich foods: Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
• Protein – Go lean with protein: Vary your protein food choices
In a realistic manner, the MyPlate graphic shows us what a well-balanced meal should look like as we sit at the table, ready to enjoy nutrient-rich foods and beverages.
And enjoyment is a significant part of MyPlate’s philosophy. Instead of focusing on what not to eat, MyPlate emphasizes what we need to eat more of—vegetables and fruits, whole grains, milk and milk products and seafood—in order to get key nutrients that most Americans are lacking. Enjoyment of nutrient-rich foods; being physically active; and cutting back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars and salt helps us achieve and maintain overall health and a healthy weight.
In fact, one of MyPlate’s “10 Tips to a Great Plate” is:
Enjoy your food, but eat less. Take the time to fully enjoy your food as you eat it. Eating too fast or when your attention is elsewhere may lead to eating too many calories. Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues before, during, and after meals. Use them to recognize when to eat and when you’ve had enough.
The MyPlate website, ChooseMyPlate.gov, offers many resources for a healthy lifestyle—including tips, tools, sample menus and recipes. Fill your plate and cup the nutrient-rich way for optimal health and wellbeing. Bon appetit!
On the Web:
“Get Your Plate in Shape!” 2012 National Nutrition Month campaign, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
To purchase MyPlate nutrition education materials for adult/teen or child audiences (Michigan residents only), contact United Dairy Industry of Michigan, 1-800-241-6455.