How Does MyPlate Affect Your Plate? Answers From A Memorial Dietitian

You may have heard a lot of talk recently about MyPlate, a new concept to help consumers make healthier food choices. But what exactly is it and how does it help?

MyPlate, a U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative, is essentially a simplified version of the Food Guide Pyramid that encourages balanced eating, explains Christina Rollins, MS, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian with Memorial Medical Center.

The Food Guide Pyramid recommended consuming a certain number of servings per food group each day. MyPlate focuses on choosing protein, grains, fruit, vegetables and dairy at each meal.

The MyPlate lifestyle is an easy way to ensure you eat the right kinds of food at each meal, Rollins says.

The graphic you see on the left depicts a standard meal plate divided into four parts, with the size of each section depicting the proportion of each food group.

What Makes A Healthy Plate?

To build a healthy meal, fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, Rollins says. This can be as simple as two individual sides, such as roasted green beans and fresh apple slices, or a more complex choice like a tossed garden salad with dried cranberries and low-fat salad dressing.

Next, add a lean meat, such as grilled chicken breast or pork loin.

Fill the remainder of the plate with your choice of potato, rice, pasta or roll. Add a cup of nonfat milk or yogurt on the side, and you’ve created a balanced meal!

Why Make The Change?

MyPlate was designed to reinforce the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which consist of three main topic areas designed to reduce the obesity epidemic and improve overall health of the general population.

These areas are balancing calories, foods to reduce and foods to increase. Understanding each area will help you adopt the MyPlate lifestyle.

  • Balancing Calories: Eating more calories than your body needs each day can lead to weight gain and obesity. Be sure to fill your plate with lower-calorie, nutrient-dense foods like fruit, vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy products and whole grains. Balance higher-fat foods such as cakes, cookies, pies and candy with increased physical activity. Taking a brisk walk, jogging or even heavy house cleaning are great ways to burn off excess calories.
  • Foods to Reduce: Sodium continues to be public enemy number one when it comes to foods to avoid. Consumed primarily as salt, eating too much sodium raises your blood pressure and can lead to serious health problems including heart disease, congestive heart failure and kidney disease. Choosing fresh or frozen vegetables, avoiding processed meats like bacon, sausage and bologna, and banning table salt will help reduce sodium intake.

    Be sure to also check the Nutrition Facts label found on most foods. This will tell you how much sodium is provided per serving. You should limit sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams per day if you’re less than 50 years old and less than 1,500 milligrams per day if you’re 51 or older unless otherwise instructed by a physician.

  • Foods to Increase: MyPlate reinforces eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Incorporating these foods doesn’t mean a complete diet overhaul. Add fresh berries to hot oatmeal for breakfast, top your favorite deli sandwich with sliced cucumbers, or swap a calorie-laden dessert with fresh fruit or nonfat yogurt.

Here’s an easy way to work fruit into a delicious dessert.

What tips do you have to eat a better balanced diet?

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