The New American Plate

Amy Thomas Health Guide December 15, 2008
  • The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recently introduced a new diet approach to help people lower their risk for cancer and other chronic diseases while managing their weight at the same time. In lieu of any complex calculations or rigid dietary restrictions, the "New American Plate" offers a simple way to adjust serving portions on your plate as needed to maintain good health. The goal is to increase your intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and other plant-based foods, because not only do they provide a number of anti-cancer metabolites, they also displace high-calorie foods linked to weight gain and the development of certain cancers.

     

    The guidelines are simple: plant foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, and beans, should cover at least two-thirds of your plate. The New American Plate shifts from the traditional "meat-with-two-side-dishes" meal to a new "meat on the side" meal in which plant-based foods rich in fiber and antioxidants are the main course. A predominantly plant-based diet provides low energy-dense foods that give the feeling of fullness without a lot of calories. The fruits and vegetables included supply the spectrum of antioxidants linked to a lower risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the breast, lung, and colon. 

     

    The key to adhering to this new diet is recognizing appropriate portion sizes. Competition within the food industry has turned us into a "super-sized" society, and meals sizes have more than tripled in the past two decades-first in restaurants and now in the home. We can no longer consider the size served a true "serving size," and we must become familiar with standard serving sizes in order to maintain a healthy diet and weight in our new society. For instance, the recommended serving size of meat is only three ounces-which is equivalent to one-quarter of a chicken breast, or the amount that would fill your fist.

     

    This can be a bit misleading when you're weighing the choice of 8 or 12 ounce serving of meat at your local steakhouse.  When looking at the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA's, food pyramid, the concept of portion is confusing in the other food groups as well. An eight ounce glass of milk is actually two servings of dairy, one apple is two servings of fruit, and the type of jumbo bagel found at most coffee houses provides four servings of grain-more than half of the daily recommended allowance. Given the sizes served at a typical dining establishment, it's no wonder the incidence of obesity has more than tripled in the past twenty years.

     

    While sticking to these smaller portions, mix them up and keep them colorful. Deeply colored foods like dark red cherries and tomatoes, orange carrots, yellow corn and saffron, and dark blue blueberries contain a number of protective anti-oxidants. The New American Plate diet includes five daily servings of fruits or vegetables (serving size of ½ cup each), so it's easy to get a little of everything.

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    Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage are linked to protection against breast cancer. Dark green vegetables rich in folate, including spinach, broccoli, and asparagus, and brighter, carotenoid-rich choices like oranges, papayas, tangerines, red peppers, and carrots are linked to a lower risk of lung cancer. And eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is more protective against cancer than any one nutrient.

     

    The guidelines also include 6-8 daily servings of other plant based foods, including whole grains and legumes. Whole grains like brown rice, oats, and whole wheat bread are generally better choices than the refined grains like white rice and white bread because whole grains provide more fiber and antioxidants. Meat and dairy are still a part of your recommended daily allowance, and you'll need three daily servings of dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese), to get adequate amounts of vitamin D and calcium. Two to three servings of meat, poultry, egg, fish, nuts, or beans are recommended to provide protein and iron, but just remember to limit your meat group portions to 1/3 of your plate.

     

    To learn more about The New American Plate and recommended serving sizes you can visit the AICR's website at the following link:

    http://www.aicr.org/site/PageServer?pagename=pub_nap_index_21

     

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