Eat Smart with “MyPlate”
Download PDF Previous Articles
For smart eating, one size doesn’t fit all. Each person is unique, with different taste preferences and different nutrient and energy needs. MyPlate is the icon introduced by the US Department of Agriculture to prompt us to think differently about our food choices. The accompanying website, “ChooseMyPlate.gov,” offers resources to help people meet their individual nutrition and calorie needs and make positive food choices. MyPlate is flexible enough to suit the many differences among people, from age two on up.
Source: US Department of Agriculture
Plating Up Variety
The key nutrients in a food determine where it fits on MyPlate. Within each group, the nutrient content of foods is similar. Eaten as part of a healthful diet, foods from each group offer the variety of nutrients you need to be your best.
- Fruits Group . . . for vitamin C, beta-carotene (which forms vitamin A), folate (especially important for women of child-bearing age) and fiber. Tip: Focus on fruits.
- Vegetables Group . . . for beta-carotene, vitamin C, folate and fiber. Tip: Vary your veggies.
- Grains Group . . . for carbohydrates (a key energy source), B-vitamins, including folate, and fiber from whole-grain foods. Tip: Make half your grains whole.
- Protein Foods Group . . . for protein and iron. Tip: Go lean with protein.
- Dairy Group . . . for protein and bone-building calcium. Tip: Get your calcium-rich foods.
- Oils . . . although not a food group, oils provide essential nutrients, so are included in healthful food patterns. Oils such as canola or olive oils are mainly used as flavorings; foods such as nuts, avocados and certain types of fish are naturally high in oils; foods such as salad dressings, mayonnaise and soft (tub or squeeze) margarines with zero grams trans fat are mainly oils.
Go for Variety
Variety Within . . . Within food groups, variety is important. Even similar foods supply some different nutrients; no food has them all. For example, an orange supplies vitamin C and folate, but not beta-carotene; cantaloupe is high in beta-carotene and vitamin C, but not folate.
Variety Makes Good “Sense” . . . Foods of different colors, textures, tastes, shapes and temperatures make meals and snacks appealing. Consider broiled chicken brushed with barbecue sauce, crisp-tender broccoli and rice pilaf with crunchy almonds served with a glass of cold low-fat milk and mixed berries for dessert. A nutritious meal with sensory appeal is more likely to be eaten.
Balance for Your Needs
- Enjoy your food, but eat less.
- Go to ChooseMyPlate.gov for recommended amounts from each food group.
- Follow the advice to get important nutrients without overdoing on calories.
- Avoid oversized portions.
- Check out ChooseMyPlate.gov to learn what counts as a standard amount of a food. For example, count 1 regular-size slice of whole-wheat bread as 1 ounce of whole grains; count 1-1/2 ounces of natural cheese as 1 cup of milk.
- It’s important to be aware of how much you are eating so you eat recommended amounts of foods from each food group without extra calories. Eating extra calories on a regular basis can result in weight gain.
Balancing Food Choices:
- Eat more of these foods:
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
- Make at least half your grains whole grains.
- Choose fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk or dairy foods.
- Go easy on sodium and added sugars:
- Compare the amount of sodium in foods—choose the foods with lower numbers. (Tip: Look for lower-sodium versions of favorite foods.)
- Opt for water, fat-free or low-fat milk, 100% fruit juice or low-calorie beverages most of the time; enjoy sugary drinks as an occasional treat.
- It’s About Balance over Time:
- MyPlate is a reminder to eat smart at every meal or snack, but not every food choice or meal has to be perfect. If you come up short one day—or eat too much—adjust what you eat over the next day or two.
Balancing Your Day with Physical Activity
- Physical activity means moving your body to use energy. Walking, gardening, briskly pushing a baby stroller, climbing the stairs, riding a bike or dancing are examples of being active. For health, physical activity should be moderate or vigorous intensity.
- Everyone can benefit from taking part in moderate or vigorous physical activity on a regular basis. The more physical activity you do, the greater the benefits such as: increasing your chances of living longer, lowering your risk of some chronic diseases, helping you feel better about yourself and staying at or getting to a healthy weight.
- Young children ages 2-5 years should play actively several times each day. Activities should be fun, varied and developmentally appropriate.
- Children over 5 years of age and adolescents should do 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day.
- Adults should do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week of aerobic physical activity at a moderate level or 1 hour and 15 minutes each week of aerobic physical activity at a vigorous level.
ChooseMyPlate.gov: Tips for Getting Started
- Start the day with a bowl of whole-grain cereal topped with fat-free milk and fruit.
- Blend fat-free yogurt with a banana for a fruit smoothie; munch on a couple of graham crackers.
- Build a better sandwich by starting with whole-grain bread and layering lettuce, shredded carrots and sliced tomato on a favorite filling.
- Add colorful veggies to tomato sauce, soups or pizza.
- Eat veggie-rich salads at the start of a meal to take the edge off hunger.
- When eating out, opt for small or medium portions of entrees, sides and beverages. Order from the menu, rather than choosing the buffet, to help you manage portions.
- Skip the potato chips; snack on a serving of whole-grain crackers.
- Choose steamed, grilled, baked or broiled dishes instead of dishes sautéed in butter or fried.
- Pack an orange, apple or pear as part of lunch or an afternoon snack.
- Make snacks count toward your food group servings: mix nuts and raisins, top apple slices with cheddar cheese; spread peanut butter on whole-grain crackers.
However you “plate up” your meals and snacks, remember that good nutrition and physical activity are keys to a healthy lifestyle. Start today and put MyPlate to work for you.
Looking for a simple idea for dinner? Here’s a colorful and easy solution.
One-Skillet Chicken and Vegetable Pasta
Prep Time: 20 min.
Total Time: 40 min.
Makes: 6 servings
||lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
||cup KRAFT Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette Dressing, divided
||can (14 oz.) fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
||cups whole wheat rotini pasta, uncooked
||cup small broccoli florets
||large orange bell pepper, cut into thin strips
||cup halved cherry tomatoes
||Tbsp. KRAFT 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese
||tsp. ground black pepper
COOK and stir chicken in 2 Tbsp. of the dressing in large skillet on medium-high heat 4 to 5 min. or until chicken is lightly browned.
ADD water, broth and pasta; stir. Cover. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 10 min. Stir in broccoli and bell peppers; cook, uncovered, an additional 5 min. or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are crisp-tender.
STIR in tomatoes; cook until heated through. Add remaining 2 Tbsp. dressing, the cheese and black pepper; toss lightly.
Dietary Exchanges based on Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes ©2008 by the American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association.
Feel good about serving up this low-calorie, low-fat meal. The broccoli and bell pepper team up to provide an excellent source of vitamin C. Balance your plate by serving with a pear and a glass of fat-free milk.
Nutrition Information Per Serving (recipe only): 300 calories, 5g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 45mg cholesterol, 360mg sodium, 42g carbohydrate, 7g dietary fiber, 3g sugars, 26g protein, 15%DV vitamin A, 40%DV vitamin C, 6%DV calcium, 15%DV iron.
Exchange: 2 Starch, 1 Vegetable, 3 Meat (L)