The USDA has simplified nutrition guidelines with its "MyPlate" campaign. MyPlate replaces the older Food Pyramid that many adults grew up with. The campaign's goal is to make healthy eating simpler and more practical by using the visual icon of your plate with what should be on it.
Good health depends on good nutrition. But sorting through complicated nutrition data can be confusing. The MyPlate campaign reminds you to plan meals based on a balanced diet. That means paying attention to the relative amounts of different food groups in your diet.
The science behind MyPlate lies in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. With epidemic rates of overweight and obesity, the MyPlate icon simplifies healthy meal planning by focusing on the end result -- what ends up on your plate.
Use MyPlate for Relative Portion Sizes
Imagine looking down at your dinner plate. Do you see a lone lettuce leaf, a pile of french fries, and a thick steak draped over most of your plate?
The beauty of MyPlate is in using a plate icon to "measure" the relative portion sizes of the food groups you're eating. You don't have to eat from every food group at every meal. Instead you can use MyPlate as a guide for what to eat each day.
And speaking of food groups, oils, which were included in the Food Pyramid, have been dropped as a separate group. That's because many foods already contain oils, and a key nutrition goal for most Americans is to cut back on fat.
Vegetables and Fruits: Half Your Plate
The first goal of healthy eating is to fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits, adding slightly more veggies than fruits. This is one of the best things most Americans can do to improve their nutrition. That's why it's a primary focus of the MyPlate campaign.
The other half of your plate should be filled with proteins and grains, using slightly more grain than protein. Now each of four major food groups -- vegetables, fruits, proteins, and grains - occupies roughly a quarter of your plate. Dairy is the fifth food group in the MyPlate campaign. To remind you that need to include dairy in healthy balanced meal planning, the MyPlate icon shows a glass of milk near your "plate."
The recommended daily amounts of each food group depends on your age, gender, activity level, and other considerations such as whether or not you're pregnant. But the MyPlate plan gives everyone a clear reminder of what a balanced diet generally looks like.
What Does MyPlate Look Like?
A steak-slathered plate without any fruits or vegetables doesn't meet MyPlate's good-nutrition guidelines. Nor does a diet made up solely of salad without balanced portions of protein, fruit, and dairy. Here's how to apply the MyPlate guidelines to your own plate.