In order to replace the dated food pyramid concept, the MyPlate was introduced in 2011. MyPlate was introduced alongside the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and has further been updated with the current 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Goals of MyPlate
MyPlate serves as a reminder to find a healthy diet that is right for you and your lifestyle so that you can maintain it throughout your lifetime.
By following MyPlate, you should be able to:
- “Focus on variety, amount, and nutrition.”1
- “Choose foods and beverages with less saturate fat, sodium, and added sugars.”1
- “Start with small changes to build healthier eating styles.”1
- “Support healthy eating for everyone.”1
When choosing a healthy eating lifestyle, you should consider several factors in your life. Whether it be your age, taste, or culture, you should choose an eating style that is consistently achievable so that you can improve and maintain your health.
Focus on Variety, Amount, and Nutrition: Choose your foods and beverages from all of the five food groups. Having the right balance of fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy will help you reach your daily energy and nutrient needs. How much you eat should be based on your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level. By focusing on the variety, amount, and nutrition of your food choices, you can avoid being overweight and obese, as well as reduce risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Reduce Saturated Fat, Sodium, and Added Sugars: Be aware of these three things when inspecting a nutrition label or following a recipe. Added sugars and saturated fats can significantly increase your daily caloric intake and make it harder to eat healthy. Reducing those will help you work towards and maintain a healthy body weight. In addition, reducing your sodium intake can reduce the risk of high blood pressure.
Make Small Changes: When transitioning to a healthy diet, it is often difficult to stay on track if you are making drastic changes to our eating lifestyle. Going from pizza, cheeseburgers, and soda every day, to eating whole wheat, turkey sandwiches with yogurt and a glass of water can be quite difficult. When transitioning to MyPlate, you are encouraged to make small changes to your diet that get you closer and closer to a healthy eating lifestyle. Start by making half of your grains healthy whole grains, switch from whole-fat milk to low-fat or fat free milk, and start varying your proteins. Making these small changes and setting goals will keep you encouraged and help you reach your healthy lifestyle.
Support Healthy Eating for Everyone: Making healthy choices for you will influence those around you. Promoting healthy lifestyles for ourselves and other will increase the well-being of our communities.
Putting Together Your Plate
When you are putting together a meal, you should follow the concepts of MyPlate so that you can have a healthy balance of each food group and your caloric intake. You can build a personal MyPlate Checklist to help you reach your energy and nutrition needs at: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate-Daily-Checklist
Each of the five food groups is important to incorporate into our daily meals. Variety of the food groups and within the food groups will make it easier to stick to your healthy lifestyle. To figure out your daily needs for each food group, you can use your personalized daily checklist.
Fruits: Fruits are one of the best sources of naturally occurring sugars and nutrients. Consuming fruits instead of snacks and drinks with added sugar is a big step towards good health. Fruits can satisfy your sweet tooth, as well as provide your body with important nutrients like potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin B9. Studies have also shown that eating fruit can reduce your risk for certain cancers, heart disease, and diabetes.
Vegetables: For vegetables, it is recommended that a balanced variety is consumed on a weekly basis. The dietary guidelines break vegetables into five categories: dark-green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables. Vegetables are typically low in fats and sugars, while providing a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Eating vegetables has similar benefits to fruits, as well as reducing risks for heart attack and stroke.
Grains: Grains are not hard to come by in the typical American diet, but whole grains are not consumed as much as they should be. It is recommended that along with fulfilling your daily need for grains, you should make at least half of the grains you consume whole grains. Having whole grains in the diet contributes to successful weight management and can reduce the risk of heart disease.
Proteins: Proteins in the diet, including vegetarian proteins, are good sources of many necessary vitamins and minerals. Our bodies need protein to build bones, muscle, skin, and blood. Without it, we would also not be able to effectively produce hormones we need for a healthy lifestyle. When choosing a protein for your meal, take into consideration how much saturated fat that it contains. Leaner cuts of red meat, poultry, fish, nuts, and seeds are good sources of healthy protein. Variety is also key when consuming proteins. It is recommended that you consume 8 ounces of healthy seafood protein a week. Healthy seafood such as salmon is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. If you are consuming nuts and seeds for your protein needs, choose ones that are unsalted or low in sodium.
Dairy: Dairy is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. This group contains milk, yogurt, cheese, and any other product made from milk that retains its calcium. Butter and cream cheese are examples of milk products that do not fit into this group. When choosing dairy products, select those that are low-fat or fat-free. Whole-fat dairy products are high in saturated fats and can contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels. Dairy products are necessary in our diets to provide calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients help us build, repair, and maintain our bones. A sufficient daily intake of dairy can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease. For those that are lactose intolerant, it is suggested to either consume small portions of dairy, lactose-free milk, or choose a calcium-fortified soy milk. If none of those options work for you, you should consume foods rich in vitamin D and calcium to replace dairy on your MyPlate.
Oils: Although these are not one of the food groups, they are present in our diets. Oils can provide us with healthy unsaturated fats that are necessary for our nutrition. These unsaturated fats do not raise cholesterol levels like saturated fats do, so they are a smarter choice. Oils are also a good source of vitamin E, which prevents damage from free-radicals in our bodies. Only a small amount of oil is recommended daily, because it is nutrient dense and energy dense. On average, one tablespoon of oil contains 120 calories. Healthy sources of oil in the diet include cooking oils, salad dressings, nuts, olives, some fish, and avocadoes.
Originally published 02/07