Replacing the Food Pyramid

We all remember the food pyramid, which was almost as cryptic as a real pyramid, but in 2011 the USDA came out with MyPlate.  The new program is simple and uses a fitting symbol for portioning food; a plate and cup. MyPlate is less of a strict message and more of a prompt to eat healthily.

Servings make more sense than when we used the food pyramid. Instead of 6 to 11 servings of bread, the new recommendation is 6 ounces for an adult’s 2,000 calorie diet. A day’s worth of grains could look like this: 1 whole wheat English muffin, 2 slices of bread for a sandwich, and 1 cup of whole grain pasta. The division of the plate makes it easy for kids and adults alike to take a glance at their food and tell if they are in line with the basic proportions of the MyPlate guide.

What MyPlate does not include is a section for oils and sweets. In the past the pyramid featured sweets and fats as a group, which seemed to lead people to believe that because it was represented, it was still good for you. The group has been moved to a non-visible category called “empty calories,” keeping them out of sight and out of mind.

Here is what the MyPlate guidelines look like:

  • Fill more than a quarter of the plate with vegetables. Dark leafy greens are encouraged along with red and orange vegetables.
  • Fruit should be a little less than a quarter of the plate. Varying fruits are encouraged and juice is still there, but considered less healthy because it doesn’t retain fiber and has higher concentrations of sugar.
  • A bit more than a quarter of the plate should hold grains, with at least half of those being whole grains. The grains are separated into two groups, whole and refined, with an emphasis on the whole grains.
  • Protein should take up less than a quarter of the plate. Lean protein and fish are encouraged as well as beans and nuts.
  • Dairy should be present as a side such as yogurt, cottage cheese, milk or cheese.

MyPlate is a simple guide to eating healthy. When you eat your next meal, scan your plate and check if half of it is filled with veggies and fruit. If not, you may want to reconsider your meal to make sure you get enough vitamins and minerals. Eat plenty of whole grains and less refined grains. Eat meat and dairy that are lean and minimally processed. With these guidelines in mind it is easy to remember to eat a balanced diet.

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