'My Plate' replaces the 'Food Pyramid' for Healthy Eating

  • Do you know what you are supposed to eat to be healthy?  The FoodPyramid has now been replaced with MyPlate, an icon which emphasizes the fruit, vegetable, grains, protein and dairy food groups.  The new icon will be used in messages to illustrate healthy eating based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans released this January. 

    Primary messages from the Guidelines include:

      Balance Calories
        Enjoy your food, but eat less.
        Avoid oversized portions.
      Food to Increase
        Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
        Make at least half your grains whole grains.
        Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
      Foods to Reduce
        Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals--and choose the foods with lower numbers.
        Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

    In perusing the new website, ChooseMyPlate.gov, I found several helpful resources including the 10 Tip Sheets Nutrition Education series.  Each colorful, one-page Tip Sheet provides simple recommendations which can be made to achieve a healthier eating pattern for adults, children, and families.  I spent time reading through each page and recognize several suggestions and learned a few new things. 

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    The MyPlate icon resembles the advice my neurological nurse practitioner gives when discussing healthy eating patterns.  She has long emphasized that we should use smaller plates, fill half of it with fruits and vegetables, one-quarter with protein, one-quarter with grains.  Looks very similar to the picture, doesn’t it?

    Knowing that this is the way we should eat is one thing.  Actually putting this knowledge into practice is a different story.  Creating meals which follow this simple advice needs to become habit.  Don’t forget that fruits and veggies matter.

    Read a few of the suggestions regarding food groups and healthy eating habits, as excerpted from the various 10 Tip Sheets:


    • choose seafood twice a week - Eat seafood in place of meat or poultry twice a week. Select a variety of seafood—include some that are higher in oils and low in mercury, such as salmon, trout, and herring.
    • have an egg - One egg a day, on average, doesn’t increase risk for heart disease, so make eggs part of your weekly choices. Only the egg yolk contains cholesterol and 
    • saturated fat, so have as many egg whites as you want.
    • eat plant protein foods more often - Try beans and peas (kidney, pinto, black, or white beans; split peas; chickpeas; hummus), soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers), nuts, and seeds. They are naturally low in saturated fat and high in fiber.
    • nuts make great snacks - Choose unsalted nuts as a snack and use them in salads or main dishes. Add almonds, walnuts, or pecans instead of cheese or meat to a green salad. 
    • include beans and peas - Because of their high nutrient content, consuming beans and peas is recommended for everyone, vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Enjoy some vegetarian chili, three bean salad, or split pea soup. Make a hummus-filled pita sandwich.

    Fruits and Vegetables

    • choose vegetables rich in color - Brighten your plate with vegetables that are red, orange, or dark green. They are full of vitamins and minerals. Try acorn squash, cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes, or collard greens. They not only taste great but also are good for you, too.
    • check the freezer aisle - Frozen vegetables are quick and easy to use and are just as nutritious as fresh veggies. Try adding frozen corn, peas, green beans, spinach, or sugar snap peas to some of your favorite dishes or eat as a side dish. 
    • sip on some vegetable soup - Heat it and eat it. Try tomato, butternut squash, or garden vegetable soup. Look for reduced- or low-sodium soups.
    • get creative with your salad - Toss in shredded carrots, strawberries, spinach, watercress, orange segments, or sweet peas for a flavorful, fun salad. 
    • salad bars aren’t just for salads - Try eating sliced fruit from the salad bar as your dessert when dining out. This will help you avoid any baked desserts that are high in calories.
    • make a tasty fruit smoothie - For dessert, blend strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries with frozen bananas and 100% fruit juice for a delicious frozen fruit smoothie.

    For Kids

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    • make food fun - Sugary foods that are marketed to kids are advertised as “fun foods.” Make nutritious foods fun by preparing them with your child’s help and being creative together. Create a smiley face with sliced bananas and raisins. Cut fruit into fun and easy shapes with cookie cutters.
    • encourage kids to invent new snacks - Make your own snack mixes from dry whole-grain cereal, dried fruit, and unsalted nuts or seeds. Provide the ingredients and allow kids to choose what they want in their “new” snack.
    • delicious dippers - Kids love to dip their foods. Whip up a quick dip for veggies with yogurt and seasonings such as herbs or garlic. Serve with raw vegetables like broccoli, carrots, or cauliflower. Fruit chunks go great with a yogurt and cinnamon or vanilla dip. 
    • caterpillar kabobs - Assemble chunks of melon, apple, orange, and pear on skewers for a fruity kabob. For a raw veggie version, use vegetables like zucchini, cucumber, squash, sweet peppers, or tomatoes. 
    • personalized pizzas - Set up a pizza-making station in the kitchen. Use whole-wheat English muffins, bagels, or pita bread as the crust. Have tomato sauce, low-fat cheese, and cut-up vegetables or fruits for toppings. Let kids choose their own favorites. Then pop the pizzas into the oven to warm.

    What do you think of the new MyPlate campaign?  Is it better than the FoodPyramid?  Is it too simplistic, or too vague in its simplicity?  Share your opinion.



    Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.

Published On: June 04, 2011