In 1992, the USDA created the Food Guide Pyramid. It was a simple illustration to convey the elements of a healthy diet. The USDA updated the pyramid in 2005, however, there was concern that it was too vague. So in June 2011 the USDA introduced a new and simpler concept called MyPlate.
So how does MyPlate translate to a healthy lifestyle for you and your family? Although it illustrates the important building blocks of a healthy diet, it can be taken one step further to focus on the healthier choices of those elements. There are also other important parts of a healthy diet that are not part of the icon.
Fill more than half of your plate with vegetables and fruits. The more color, and the more variety, the better. It makes the plate interesting for kids as well. Help them pick out colorful fruits and vegetables when grocery shopping. Potatoes do not count as healthy vegetables! Vegetables can be easily incorporated in dinner. You can get in daily intake of fruits by putting them in school lunches and having them as part of the after school snack.
A quarter of the plate is for grains, but they should be whole grains. MyPlate tells you to reserve a quarter of your plate for grains. Eat whole grains, since these have a gentler effect on blood sugar and insulin than refined grains. Whole grains include whole wheat, brown rice, steel cut oats, barley, and the like, as well as foods made with them, such as whole wheat pasta. The less processed the whole grains, the better. Choose whole wheat pasta for dinner and brown rice or quinoa rather than white rice. Whole grain oatmeal for the kids is a great way to start the morning.
Pick a healthy source of protein to fill one quarter of your plate. On MyPlate, the protein quadrant of the plate should be fish, chicken, beans, nuts and less red meat and processed meat. Make sure you have plant based sources of protein included. Mix nuts and beans in your salad. Make lentil soup or beans for dinner. Hot dogs are not part of a healthy diet!
Don’t overdo the dairy. Recommended calcium intake varies by age, but 2 to 3 servings a day of dairy are all you usually need to meet the RDA for Calcium. For children over 4 years of age and adolescents it is 1000–1300 mg. There are not very many good food sources for Vitamin D so 15 min of direct sun or supplements are needed to make the daily requirement. For children less than 1 year, 400 IU of Vitamin D is recommended and 600 IU of vitamin D is recommended for kids 1 year and up.
Choose healthy fats. Although not mentioned in the MyPlate use healthy oils, like olive and canola, in cooking, on salad. Limit butter, and avoid unhealthy trans fats.
Drink water, coffee or tea. Milk is not essential to your meals. You can have water, coffee, green tea. No sugary drinks! Put water or a low sugar juice for school lunches.
Eat in moderation. Focus on the quality rather than the quantity.
Stay active. Go out for a walk after dinner with your children. Have the children participate in activities and sports. It is recommended that children and adolescents get 60 min of moderate to vigorous exercise preferably daily.