What is MyPlate?
The US government (U.S. Department of Agriculture – USDA) developed a helpful guide for adults and children for optimal health. “MyPlate” replaces the familiar “food pyramid” that has been obsolete. The MyPlate model shows the five food groups (fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains, and dairy) in a proportion setting, making it easier to understand the types of food and quantity to include in each meal to have a healthy and balanced diet.
Development of MyPlate:
For over 100 years, the USDA has provided Americans with different types of food guides and pyramids to encourage healthy food choices. The Food Pyramid has been the popular and accepted mode since 1992. The idea behind the original Food Pyramid was that foods that should be eaten the most form the base of the pyramid, whereas those that should be eaten less would be toward the top. However, these guidelines were unclear and difficult to follow. The Food Pyramid was based on servings, without clear representation of the serving size or total number of calories to be consumed in a day.
Due to these drawbacks, a modification to the original Food Pyramid called MyPyramid was introduced in 2005. Food groups were coded by stripes in widths corresponding to the recommended servings from each group. All the stripes that tapered toward the top of the pyramid indicated that each food group includes both healthy and unhealthy foods. However, the new Food Pyramid was confusing and making it difficult for people to understand and follow. Hence, the USDA introduced MyPlate to provide a simple, easy-to-understand visual representation to eat healthy.
How does MyPlate work?
The plate is divided into four unequal sections to represent different food groups.
The main food groups are as follows:
Vegetables make up the largest portion on the plate, which is 40%, followed by grains, which is 30%. Fruits make up 10% of the plate, and proteins make up 20%. Fruits and vegetables fill half the plate, whereas proteins and grains fill the other half. Small amounts of dairy in a glass (milk) or cup (yogurt) is incorporated in the diet.
What are the benefits of MyPlate?
The benefits of MyPlate include:
- MyPlate is a simple and easy model representing what an ideal meal should look like, without too many dietary restrictions.
- One of the positive facts about MyPlate is that it does not necessitate meat to be included.
- Instead, “protein” is part of the plate, which includes fish, shellfish, eggs or beans, peas, nuts, and seeds in addition to meat, making it easy for vegans or vegetarians and those with other dietary restrictions to follow.
- MyPlate recognizes the benefits of a plant-based diet; hence, it eliminates “oils” or “fats” section included in the previous Food Pyramid.
- MyPlate also incorporates dairy because it is believed to play an important role in maintaining good health.
How do I plan MyPlate?
MyPlate is based on the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provides detailed instructions for planning healthy meals and snacks. Some important points of these include:
- Half the plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. This includes whole or cut-up fruits without added sugars. Vegetables could be cooked (steamed/roasted/sautéed) or raw. It is advised to avoid fried vegetables as much as possible.
- Dairy options could be 1% or skimmed milk, cheese, or dairy options without full-fat.
- Half of the grains on the plate should be whole grains. Brown rice and whole-wheat pasta are examples of whole grains.
- Proteins can be of different types, such as seafood, eggs, beans, unsalted nuts, or lean meat.
- High sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars should be avoided. Nutrition food and drinks can help as a guide to pick healthy food and drinks. For example, bread can have as much salt as salty snacks and packaged fruit juices have high sugar and very little fruit.
- It is advised to be physically active in addition to a healthy diet.
- One should be focused on variety, amount, and nutrition.
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