A New Symbol for Healthy Eating
by Catherine McNiff
In June 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled MyPlate, the new symbol of healthy eating. Long criticized for being cumbersome and user-unfriendly, the nutritional guideline system called MyPyramid is now a relic of the past as the USDA tries to keep abreast of current nutritional research and make this information palatable to the public. A direct result of the White House Childhood Obesity Task Force 2010 report, MyPlate offers both a streamlined visual cue and a straightforward approach to a loaded issue?the ever-increasing girth of the U.S. population.
"USDA is committed to helping Americans make healthier food choices and our MyPlate symbol is a simple reminder to think before we eat," said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "Our public and private sector national partners represent an important cross-section of industry, advocates and academia pulling toward a common goal of improving the health our country through diet and in many cases reversing childhood obesity."
Along with the new graphic and a tweaking of the nutritional values, MyPlate places an emphasis on engaging students?both K-12 and college?with a strong social media presence: ChooseMyPlate.gov, a Facebook page, blogs, Twitter (hashtag #B2S), and LinkedIn. Resources include the SuperTracker, a diet and physical activity planner that can be personalized, a kid-friendly Kids Place, a website designed for children ages 8 to 12, and a version for Spanish speakers, MiPlato.
Think Before You Eat
MyPlate illustrates the five food groups that are the building blocks for a healthy diet using a familiar image-a place setting for a meal. The main idea? Think before you eat; make a conscious choice about what foods and food amounts go on your plate or in your bowl. Here are the highlights:
- Make half your plate fruits and veggies. People who eat more fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. Fruits and vegetables provide nutrients vital for health and maintenance of your body.
- Make at least half your grains whole grains. Whole grains contain the entire grain kerne?the bran, germ, and endosperm. Examples include oatmeal, whole wheat flour, bulger, brown rice.
- Go lean with protein. Select a variety of protein foods such as lean meats, soy products, eggs, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds to improve nutrient intake and health benefits, including at least 8 ounces of cooked seafood per week.
- Choose fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese.
- Be aware of empty calories. Solid fats and added sugars add calories to the food but few or no nutrients. Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter, beef fat, and shortening. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added when foods or beverages are processed or prepared.
- Move your body. Good choices extend beyond the plate; exercise is vital to well-being and good health.