USDA MyPlate Program Offers Sound Advice Without The Fat

  • In an attempt shed the extra pounds that America gained by following the ill-fated Food Pyramid for the past 20 years, the USDA recently replaced the pyramid with a round plate-MyPlate. Although thinking about a diet strategy in terms of what is put on one's plate is nothing groundbreaking, this concept is simple to understand, relevant to real life, and adaptable to different situations. All the advice offered by the USDA MyPlate program is generally sound and well-grounded in good science, but the advice is not perfect. Oh well. At this point, anything is better than what Americans are doing with their plates these days.

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    Nothing is simpler than the geometric figure of a circle that any preschooler can draw. Divide that circle like a pie and now the idea of portion control is introduced. That is exactly what the USDA did with this ideal plate of food by portioning the food choices into the major food categories: grain, fruit, vegetable, protein and a glass of dairy. This way, over half of the plate should be covered by plants. Hey America, eat food, mostly plants, not too much. Does that sound familiar? Of course, that concept is preached by the one of the world's leading nutrition expert, Michael Pollan. If followed, this simple concept should have profound effects on many waistlines.


    A plate of food divided into proper proportions is very relevant to most people. Goodbye pyramid that nobody could understand what in the world it had to do with breakfast, lunch or dinner. Goodbye pyramid that placed everyone on a high carbohydrate, low fat diet that was a prescription for obesity. We have a plate of food now-MyPlate.


    This plate offers choices that can be adapted to each individual's situation.  The USDA offers selection tips within each food category to aid in the decision making process. For example, the grain group emphasizes whole grains as opposed to refined grains with a good explanation of both. Furthermore, vegetarians are offered suggestions and reminded that beans and peas are unique protein sources. And those with lactose intolerance are also offered alternatives within the dairy group. The adaptability of the MyPlate concept makes it applicable to all.


    While the USDA's MyPlate program has much strength, it is not without weaknesses. Some of the selection tips are a bit misleading. Within the grain category, oatmeal is listed as a whole grain. Well, that is a bit misleading because the whole oat grain looks nothing like rolled oats that cook in an instant. Maybe the idea of whole grain should really be restricted to grain that is unprocessed and truly whole. Another misleading piece of information is found in the fruit and vegetable category. Here the USDA says that juice is equivalent to whole fruit and vegetables. Wow, nothing could be further from the truth. The fiber within whole plants is very important and should not be discarded. Whole fruits and vegetables are much healthier than juice because they have lower glycemic index. The omission of the glycemic index concept is not the only bit of information that is sorely missed by these new nutrition recommendations. To omit green leafy vegetables as an alternative source of calcium really does miss the mark. But the dairy industry needs to be supported along with the bread makers, cereal makers, and juice makers. Most of the misleading information within the MyPlate program really seems to be rooted in the government's need to support the food industry.


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    But at least, MyPlate is not an ugly pyramid full of hidden fat and sugar. This concept is simple enough for preschoolers to understand the food groups and portions. At the same time, this simplicity remains relevant and adaptable for everyone from a vegetarian to a lactose intolerant individual. Just take this advice with a little grain of salt because cooperate American still has a hand in your plate of food which should be filled with mostly WHOLE plants, not too much.


Published On: June 09, 2011

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