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We are saying goodbye to MyPyramid and hello to MyPlate, and not a moment too soon according to most consumers. On June 2, the United States Department of Agriculture introduced MyPlate as its new healthy eating symbol.

"Replacing the MyPyramid symbol, which had proven to be too complex for Americans to follow easily, MyPlate is simply a visual reminder of what a healthy meal should include, says Shirley Whitten, a regional Extension agent in Human Nutrition, Diet and Health .

Look at a plate of food at mealtime and see if it looks similar to the plate in the Choose MyPlate graphic.

A healthy lunch or dinner plate should include the recommended serving sizes of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and low-fat dairy products. Number of servings recommended depend on the age, gender and activity level of the individual. Portion control is an important key to healthy eating.

In general, the following are recommended serving sizes:

  • Fruits and vegetables – ½ cup
  • Meat, poultry and fish – 3ounces (approximately the size of a deck of cards)
  • Grains – 1 ounce (1 slice of bread or ½ cup of rice or pasta)
  • Dairy – 8 ounces or 1 cup of milk

 One-half of a plate should consist of fruits and vegetables, one-fourth filled with grains and one-fourth with proteins. One serving of a low-fat dairy food should also be included. These service sizes are based on using a nine-inch plate.

"Following MyPlate recommendations may present a challenge when eating on the run," Whitten says. "When eating from a bag instead of a plate, it is easy to consume too much food. One suggestion is to spread the food out on the sandwich wrapper and visualize what it would look like on a nine-inch plate. Substituting a small salad for fries is one way to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and trim calories from a fast-food meal."

To meet requirements for dietary fiber, USDA recommends that at least one-half of grains consist of products containing whole grains. Even though fat and sugar are not mentioned on the new graphic, it is best to prepare foods without large amounts of added fat or sugar – most of the time.

MyPlate is based on recommendations from the recently released 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Tips for helping Americans build healthier diets include the following:

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.
  • Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk.
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains.
  • Limit foods with high sodium content by comparing sodium content in foods such as soups, bread and frozen meals.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

For those wanting more in-depth information on healthy eating recommendations, MyPlate's website www.choosemyplate.gov, provides individualized information on amounts of food needed based on age, gender and activity level. It also has suggested menu plans, recipes and much more. More features will be added to the site.

As a part of this new initiative, USDA wants to see how consumers are putting MyPlate into action by encouraging them to take a photo of their plates and share on Twitter with the hash-tag #MyPlate or post photos at http://www.flickr.com/people/usdagov/.

People are bombarded with nutrition messages these days, but not all of that information is reliable. It is difficult for many people to focus on changes that will have real impact on weight and health. MyPlate provides all the information people need to make positive changes in their eating habits. Just apply the information and put it into action.


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