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MyPlate: How to Make the USDA Nutrition Recommendations Work for You!

Do you remember sitting in grade-school learning about the different food groups? You may have memories of the Food Wheel, Food Guide Pyramid or MyPyramid depending on your age. What you perhaps didn't realize then is what an important part those food groups would play in your life now. Good nutrition practices are vital lessons for children to learn, but with rising health problems in America, it seems that many of us could use similar lessons more than ever before. Right now, American elementary students learn about the food groups from something known as MyPlate. Although a concept taught in elementary school, the simple nutrition advice can apply to just about anyone struggling with weight, poor nutrition, or just general confusion about what a healthy diet should actually look like.

What is MyPlate?

MyPlate was introduced to the American public by the USDA in 2011, replacing the long-standing Food Pyramid. The design is what makes MyPlate unique from anything else the USDA has published thus far. It provides a visual representation of the ideal meal plate and offers a variety ways for Americans to make it happen.

Thanks to tools like MyPlate, nutrition is returned to its most basic form. What are the nutrients you need for a balanced lifestyle? What are realistic portion size recommendations? MyPlate answers those questions and more.

How to Make MyPlate Work for You

MyPlate is one of the easiest, straight forward ways to ensure that you're eating balanced, well-portioned meals. Below are the following MyPlate guidelines put in place by the USDA:

  1. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables Fruits and Vegetables are full of the nutrients our bodies need to function. Most adults need two servings of fruit and two and a half to three servings of vegetables each day. In general, one piece of fruit, or one cup of cut fruit, count as one serving. In addition, one cup of fresh or cooked vegetables, or two cups of leafy greens count as one serving.

  2. Make half your grains whole grains Whole grains are higher in fiber than refined grain products like white bread and pasta. Try oatmeal for breakfast, whole wheat bread to make sandwiches for lunch, or brown rice instead of white rice for dinner. When reading ingredient lists for grain products, make sure the first ingredient has the word "whole" it in. For example, "whole wheat flour" or "whole grain corn".

  3. Switch to low-fat, fat-free dairy, or dairy-free milk alternatives (almond milk, coconut milk, oatmilk, etc.) Dairy products like milk and yogurt (or their dairy-free alternatives) are great sources of calcium and vitamin D, two nutrients important for bone health.

  4. Eat a variety of protein sources Meats like chicken, beef, eggs, and fish aren't the only ways to get protein into your diet. Beans, nuts, seeds, and soy products are other ways to include protein in your diet and should be included often as a main or side dish at meals. These plant based sources of protein are all low in saturated fat, which can decrease your risk for heart disease.

Final Thoughts

Eating a healthy, balanced diet can feel increasingly complicated with age. But, it doesn't have to be this way. With simple tools like MyPlate, so much of nutrition guesswork is removed, helping you feel more confident and secure in your food choices.

Knowing what to do and actually doing it can be two different things. If you're feeling like some extra nutrition accountability would be helpful for you, please reach out to the SAFFP Fitness Department by clicking here and filling out the Starting Point Questionnaire. A member from our Fitness Team will be in touch shortly with helpful accountability options! You can also download the free copy of our National Nutrition Month Guidebook, Nourish, by clicking here.

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