My Plate Guidelines
By: James Rogers, M.D.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides dietary guidelines using a round symbol known as “My Plate.”
The idea of My Plate is simple: its shape corresponds to a dinner plate and is divided into quadrants to help people know what should be on their plates when they sit down to eat a meal. The quadrants are designated as fruits, vegetables, protein and grains. A smaller circle, representing a glass of milk and overall dairy consumption, sits outside the larger plate.
The new concept was created to be a visual cue for diners and is part of the updated USDA Dietary Guidelines, which are put in place to help Americans make healthier food choices and confront the obesity epidemic. The guidelines, which are updated every five years, state that currently in the United States, the majority of adults and one in three children is overweight or obese.
The My Plate symbol doesn’t provide a specific number of servings or calorie suggestion, because every person has different nutritional needs, based on age, health and other factors.
Suggestions pertaining to My Plate food quadrants include:
Fruits and vegetables
Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. To get the most from your produce, buy fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season. Make fruit and vegetables convenient and easy. Have a bowl of washed carrots on the kitchen table. Have grapes ready for the kids when they arrive home from school. Low fat dips and yogurt make fruits and veggies appealing.
Vary the types and colors of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
Make at least half your grains whole grains. Replace refined products with whole grain ones rather than simply adding whole grains to your diet. Read the label to make sure the food you are eating is a whole grain choice. Look for the percent of daily value for fiber and opt for the higher numbers.
When it comes to protein, the key word is “lean.” Look for lean choices, then trim away all visible fat before cooking. Avoid frying; this adds fat. Choose meats without breading, high-fat sauces or gravies. Vary protein choices and try to eat seafood that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids (choices include salmon, trout and herring) twice a week.
Include beans, peas and soy products as protein contributors to your meal.
Foods made from milk that retain their calcium content are part of this group. Opt for fat-free or low fat milk, and include it as a beverage with your meals. Other ways to incorporate dairy into your diet: use low-fat yogurt as a dip for fruit, top casseroles or vegetables with low-fat cheese and use fat-free milk when making condensed soups.
The new USDA guidelines provide additional tips for consumers. Some of these are:
Balance calories by focusing on enjoying food while eating less. The guidelines advise to avoid oversized portions.
Read the labels and compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals. Choose the foods with the lower numbers.
Decrease intake of sugary drinks, and opt instead for water.
The newest dietary guidelines and the My Plate symbol were created to aid consumers in choosing a healthy diet and lifestyle. For more information on the guidelines or to get information specific to your specific situation, visit the My Plate website at: www.choosemyplate.gov.
Dr. Rogers is a board certified family practice physician at Raiter Clinic.