By Pam Ofstein, MS, RD, LDN
eDiets Director of Nutrition
The new face (graphic symbol) of nutritional advice for consumers was released today by the United States Department of Agriculture – MyPlate. The goal is to send a simpler message to the nation when it comes to nutrition and understanding the importance of balance, variety, moderation and adequacy. Long gone are the days of MyPyramid and other pyramid icons (too many revisions to name) which to many of us seemed unpractical to understand and didn’t provide the basic information to help us eat healthier or make changes in their eating habits.
I can’t promise the new icon will solve our obesity epidemic or make us all healthier, but MyPlate should provide an easier, friendlier view of how to eat practical and work towards adopting the recommendations set forth of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (see below). We are steering away from triangles with lists and pictures of foods to eat or limit, and heading in the direction of focusing on basic food types (like fruits) to include visually.
The new MyPlate icon is a simple plate split into four sections representing a different type of food (protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetatables). Each section varies in size (for example protein is a smaller part of the plate than vegetables) depending on the recommended portion of each food an individual should eat.
I think to most of us, the previous Food Pyramid didn’t say much to the majority population out there. In fact, to most of us it was pretty confusing or simply didn’t provide the information that we needed. It is important to know the types of foods to eat (pictures of good fats, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, etc.) as seen on the pyramid, but when you begin to say 2-3 servings of this and 6-11 servings of that, to most of us it doesn’t tell us what our meal should look like. It isn’t just about the foods; it is about the portions and what a meal looks like.
Simpler is often better. In this case, basic, direct guidelines may help make a difference or at a minimum reinforce what nutrition experts have been preaching: moderation, portion control, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy and more water!
Here are the Dietary Guidelines 2010 messages for consumers:
Balancing CaloriesEnjoy your food, but eat less.Avoid over-sized portions.
Foods to IncreaseMake half your plate fruits and vegetables.Make at least half your grains whole grains.Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
Foods to ReduceCompare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals, and choose the foods with lower numbers.Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
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