The old question What’s on your plate has taken on new meaning today with the unveiling of the new Food Plate image that will replace the food pyramid. Government (USDA) hopes that Americans who found following the dietary guidelines of the food pyramid challenging will step up to the plate and eat healthier now.
It’s an icon that works, says WebMD nutrition director Kathleen Zelman, RD.
“We now have an easy-to-understand layout of what constitutes a healthy meal,” Zelman says. “Whether you are grocery shopping, packing lunches, or assembling a meal on a plate, the new food plate icon will serve as a constant reminder of the essential ingredients for a nutritious meal — five easy pieces.”
The icon makes it clear that fruits and veggies should make up half of your meal, while protein is the smallest part of the plate. The grain portion is a bit larger and still offers the advice to “make half your grains whole,” which some nutritionists say leaves too much room for less healthy refined grains such as white rice and white bread.
Other top-line advice accompanying the icon is less controversial:
Balance calories by enjoying food but eating less, and by avoiding oversize portions.
Eat more good stuff: Make half the plate fruit and vegetables, switch to nonfat or low-fat milk.
Eat less bad stuff: Look for lower-sodium soups, breads, and frozen meals; drink water instead of sugary drinks.
In the fall, the USDA will launch a suite of interactive web-based tools including:
Daily, personalized food plans.
Daily food plans for kids and preschoolers.
Daily food plans for new mothers and pregnant women.
MyFoodapedia: information on food groups, calories, and food comparisons.
Food Tracker: feedback on your food intake and physical activity
Food Planner: a tool to plan meals that will help you reach personal goals.
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