Just as we were getting used to the MyPyramid (well, some of us anyway) the USDA gives us MyPlate. Many feel that this icon is a much better visual aid for how to eat than the MyPyramid was and I suppose they’re right in some ways. My biggest criticism of MyPlate is that it doesn’t depict exercise at all whereas exercise was a main component of the MyPyramid. When using MyPyramid as a visual it was easy to point out the food groups and then the other important part of calorie balance and healthy weight management – exercise. Not so with MyPlate.
However, MyPlate does have some redeeming qualities. It teaches what I preach everyday – make half your plate vegetables and fruit. On the MyPlate the vegetable portion of the plate is visibly larger than the fruit section – I like seeing this too because as much as we’d like to believe that fruits are just as good as vegetables it’s just not true. The remaining half of the MyPlate is broken up into Grains and Protein Foods. Changing the Meats and Beans Group to Protein Foods is a pretty significant change. I’m not sure what the premise for the change was but now it is the only group that is named for a nutrient (protein) instead of a food (meat and beans). Maybe it was changed because the foods in the old Meat and Beans Group were much more than just meats and beans. Now we can easily include eggs, nuts, seeds, tofu, and seafood in addition to meat and beans into the protein group. Of course, consumers need to know what protein is first.
The MyPlate also makes a point to show us that the protein portion of our plate should be the smallest portion. Americans are not at risk for protein deficiency and protein is usually the most expensive thing on our plate. However, I’m not sure how I feel about this portion of MyPlate. I still think that your dinner plate should be an even one-quarter whole grains and one-quarter protein. This is because I know how satiating protein is and if someone is still hungry after dinner adding more protein is a good way to keep them full. Plus, the Grain portion of the MyPlate doesn’t say Whole Grains, so filling almost 1/3 of your plate with white-refined grains, which most Americans are apt to do is not a good lesson in my book.
My other issue with MyPlate is that for the majority of my meals I don’t eat off of a plate. I also don’t always include every single food group especially not for snacks. I still manage to meet my nutrient needs and eat a wide variety of foods, but if I used MyPlate as a guide for all my 5 eating events during the day I’d be taking in way more calories that I need! The MyPlate doesn’t give us any guidance on how to plan our snacks or breakfast, which for most Americans is a grab and go meal. But, it does do a good job reminding us to eat more vegetables and fruit, and that’s a lesson that everyone needs.
Visit www.choosemyplate.gov for more information on the new USDA MyPlate.