Better living through nature
At the beginning of this month, the folks at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) kicked their most recent icon for dietary guidelines, MyPyramid, to the curb in favor of a new graphic to lead Americans out of the obesity epidemic.
The USDA released MyPlate at the beginning of this month in place of MyPyramid.
Photo by USDAgov/Courtesy Flickr
This new image, MyPlate, features a much simpler design than its pyramid predecessor. The plate is divided into fourths. One fourth is devoted to fruit, the second to vegetables, the third to grains, and the fourth to protein. A glass of milk is placed above the plate to represent an individual’s daily dairy consumption.
The previous food pyramid released in 1992 suggested that foods from the grains
food group take up the majority of American's daily diets.
Photo by DailyM = Differentieel + JeeeM/Courtesy Flickr
MyPlate is quite a bit different than the pyramid that I grew up with. My dietary guidelines were dictated by the food pyramid that was released in 1992. It recommended a whopping six to 11 servings of bread, cereal and pasta, and only five to nine servings of fruits and veggies combined. Grains appeared to be the basis of the pyramid, which really promoted obesity in the long run, rather than discouraging it. Also, fats and oils were at the top of the pyramid, which to some meant they looked like the “top dogs” of the food world, or the most appealing.
In 2005, the USDA released a different version of the pyramid, called MyPyramid. It showed a stick man walking up the pyramid, promoting exercise and physical activity. The pyramid was very vague about the amount of servings needed from each food group, however, and did not get an enthusiastic response in the nutrition world.
Now, MyPlate’s recommendations are consistent with the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines released in 2010, which suggested that Americans enjoy their foods, but focus on controlling portions instead of overeating. The actual amount food you need from each food group depends on your age, sex, and level of physical activity. You can find this information easily on the USDA’s website.
MyPlate, the USDA's latest graphic for dietary guidelines, suggests that half of
your plate should contain fruits and vegetables at each meal of the day.
Photo by muammerokumus/Courtesy Flickr
The guidelines also suggested upping your fruit and vegetable intake and lowering the amount of grains you eat throughout the day, especially if they aren’t whole grains. Whole milk should be traded for 1 percent or fat free milk. The guidelines also suggest that you lower your sodium intake and enjoy a tall glass of water instead of a sugary soda or drink. Fats and oils are not included in the MyPlate graphic.
Let’s do a quick brush-up of the food groups to make sure you are making the best possible choices on your plate at home.
Fruits: Any fruit or 100 percent fruit juice count toward a serving of fruit. Common fruits include oranges, peaches, pears, pineapples and strawberries. Fruit juices include orange juice, apple juice, grape juice and grapefruit juice. By nature, fruits are low in fat, sodium and calories, and they are completely cholesterol free. They are good sources of potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C and folic acid.
Vegetables: Just like in the Fruit group, any vegetable or 100 percent vegetable juice is considered part of the Vegetable group. Green beans, lettuce, carrots and zucchini are all part of this massive category. Vegetables are rich in potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C. They, like fruits, are naturally free of cholesterol.
Grains: The USDA encourages you to eat whole grains when fulfilling your daily grains intake. Examples of whole-grain foods include whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, whole cornmeal and brown rice. Grains are important sources of dietary fiber, several B vitamins, and minerals.
Protein: Eight ounces of your protein each week should include cooked seafood, according to the USDA. Other sources of protein include beef, lamb, veal, and ham. Protein gives the body building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. Protein is one of three nutrients that provide calories and give the body energy. Foods in the Protein group are also full of B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, magnesium and zinc.
Dairy: Fluid milk products and many foods made from milk are included in the Dairy group. The USDA recommends that these foods should be low-fat or completely fat-free. Some foods included in this group include milk, cheese, yogurt and milk-based desserts like pudding and ice cream. Dairy products are a good source of calcium, which is used for building bones and teeth, and potassium.