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In an ongoing quest to communicate with the American public about nutrition, the USDA has released a new symbol of healthy eating—MyPlate.

The New MyPlate for Americans

I’m happy about this new icon because it falls right in line with the way I teach families how to plan healthy meals already. When you look at MyPlate, you can see that the plate is divided into 4 sections (quarters) and each section represents a food group. Add a glass of low-fat milk or a cup of yogurt and you’ve got a balanced meal. How easy is that?

While it appears easy, the truth is, for many families, it’s not. Barriers to actually getting a meal on the table and having everyone sit down together aside, this new food guide for Americans keeps the idea of what a meal should look like simple.

And we like simple.

The new MyPlate guide emphasizes many messages for Americans, but one important (and implied) idea is to include as many food groups at each meal as you can. This is not an encouragement to overeat–it’s a way to do better with balance and variety at meals–you will still need to keep those portions in check.

And you’ll be happy to know the food groups remain essentially the same:

The Food Groups

Although I don’t encourage parents to plate food for their children (I’m in favor of family-style meals–more on that later), having a visual reference such as MyPlate is no doubt a practical tool for families and children. With MyPlate, families may have a better sense of how to balance a meal, how much to serve and where to make up the gaps in nutrition. Even kids can make sense of this new plate!

I can already see art projects on paper plates in the classroom or at home…

MyPlate is based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and is designed to help people make healthier and better food choices. It features these messages to help Americans focus and improve upon key behaviors:

Balance Calories

  •  Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.
Foods to Increase
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains.

Foods to Reduce

  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals—and choose foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

MyPlate has an interactive website also:

Snapshot of the Interactive Tools for MyPlate

I invite you to check out MyPlate and the new interactive tools and let me know what you think. Go ahead, it’s free and you have unlimited access.

While no single message, food or icon will solely change human eating behavior, or produce a healthy human, every step towards positive change is a help.  MyPlate isn’t perfect (what is?), but it’s better.

I’ll still be teaching portion awareness, the 90:10 Rule, balance, variety, good fats vs. not-so-good fats, and of course the new MyPlate principles.

I am curious to know what you think about MyPlate?

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