In honor of the National Nutrition Month 2012, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is launching a campaign to help “Get Your Plate in Shape” this March. The theme encourages Americans to eat a healthy, balanced diet that’s in accordance with the MyPlate guidelines. “USDA’s MyPlate is a great tool to guide and help us be mindful of the foods that make up our balanced eating plan,” states Academy spokesperson Andrea Giancoli. “Make sure your eating plan includes foods from all the food groups and in appropriate portions.”
Those familiar with MyPlate will recognize most of the recommendations to get your plate in shape:
Earlier this year the USDA unveiled the MyPlate icon, replacing the MyPyramid graphic in an effort to simplify dietary recommendations for the American public. Yet despite the early excitement surrounding its unveiling, it appears not many Americans are choosing to implement the MyPlate guidelines.
In fact, most Americans are only meeting the MyPlate guidelines an average of one week out of the year. And this probably isn’t altogether that shocking given that most Americans fail to include vegetables or dairy at most meals. Additionally, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the recommendations visually depicted by the MyPlate icon, often require more than three meals to be eaten each day in order to be achieved which can also prove difficult for individuals who don’t snack in between meals.
So are the MyPlate guidelines really a diet in disguise that most people can’t stick to for longer than a week? Not exactly. The guidelines behind MyPlate result from years of study and observation of eating behaviors among thousands of Americans. These guidelines outline a lifestyle, not a diet, however without proper guidance they can be just as difficult to stick to.
When implementing the MyPlate guidelines, it’s important to know where to start and to have a little background information on what these guidelines mean. This, of course, requires you to go beyond the plate and develop your own MyPlate-based plan that works over the long-term. And although it’s easy to say this is something you want to do, actually doing it is a lot harder.
By Jill Buonomo
Many people grew up learning to base their food choices on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Pyramid, which was recently reinvented as MyPlate. The updated guidelines, communicated via a simple, color-coded graphic, are focused on proper portions of the four major food groups. The plate is divided into sections for proteins, grains, fruits and vegetables — with a glass of milk beside it representing the dairy group.
But does it go far enough? The researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Medical School didn’t think so. They’ve created their own guidelines, dubbed the Healthy Eating Plate. The Harvard guidelines are presented as a more specific alternative to the USDA’s MyPlate; an option based on science and created without any political or commercial pressures from food industry lobbyists.
The Harvard Difference
The Healthy Eating Plate is similar to USDA’s MyPlate in that it’s a colorful and graphical representation of a healthy diet. But it goes much further in terms of distinguishing healthy choices within each food group.
For example, a vegetable is not a vegetable in the eyes of the Harvard nutritionists. While the vegetable section is the largest, they suggest forgoing potatoes (and by extension, French fries) altogether. Likewise, whole grains are recommended over refined options like white rice and white bread. (more…)
When it comes to eating healthy, it’s never to early to start. Although nutrition can seem like a difficult topic to discuss with a young child, keeping it simple can set them up for a lifetime of healthy choices.
With the recent unveiling of the new USDA food icon MyPlate, starting up nutrition conversations with individuals of any age has become much more simple. In fact, the new icon is so recognizable that even young children can begin to identify what a healthy plate should look like. Educators and parents alike should use this symbol to not only help their children build healthy plates, but to start conversations with them about what eating healthy is and the importance behind it.
To help educators and parents out, many lesson plans exist to incorporate the MyPlate icon into the classroom and the home. To add to this ever-growing list of fabulous resources, please find two additional lesson plans ready for use below. The idea behind these is to make talking about nutrition fun and help children identify how their food choices fit into a well-balanced meal plan.
The fall of 2011 will begin the first school year since MyPlate was introduced as the official replacement for MyPyramid. Much of the success of the new icon is in the hands of the educators who will use it in their classrooms. Many schools are preparing to incorporate MyPlate into their curricula for all age groups, and it is also already being used in nutrition education for adults and families.
“MyPyramid has gone through changes over its lifetime,” said Sharre Littrell. “I would say that this is the first one that I feel is really consumer-friendly, because we don’t eat in a pyramid. We eat on a plate.”
Littrell is a nutrition educator for UC Davis Cooperative Extension (UCCE), an organization that helps educate communities in California about healthy eating. Although the school year hasn’t started yet, Littrell has been using the MyPlate icon in family and adult educational sessions. In the fall, UCCE educators will visit about 55 low-income schools to teach both students and teachers about healthy foods and to distribute curricula for future use.
For Littrell and her colleague Josie Rucklose, incorporating MyPlate into an existing curricula wasn’t difficult because MyPyramid is based on the many of the same underlying principles. “We’re already talking about fruit and vegetable consumption, we’re already talking about whole grain consumption, but what we get to do now is incorporate that by showing them a plate,” said Littrell.