Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, FADA - Good - bye Food Pyramid, Hello "My Plate"
Thursday, June 2, 2011 marked the end of the decades-old Food Pyramid and ushered in a new, simpler icon of healthy eating – the Plate. More specifically, “My Plate” because it’s all about each individual.
Some things make sense about a plate as an icon. After all, we don’t eat from a pyramid, we eat off of a plate (or we used to – now much of our eating is on the run and out of hand, but that’s another article in itself).
It’s all in how you slice it. My Plate, and is divided (not sliced – as in pie, and it’s politically incorrect to call it a pie, so be warned if you’re in the presence of nutritionists or USDA personnel) into 4 wedges: for protein, grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Grains and vegetables: the new “big” foods
To properly echo the intent of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, issued in January of 2011, My Plate focuses on a largely plant-based diet. Indeed, half of the plate is devoted to fruits and vegetables, with veggies getting a slightly larger wedge than fruits. On the other side of the plate, grains get about the same priority as vegetables, with “protein” having the smaller wedge, same as fruits.
As a practitioner, I know that people should be eating tons of fruits and vegetables and I try to help them do that. It’s not always easy, but that’s where grains fit in. They’re often the best friends of fruits and vegetables because they make great “vehicles” for getting fruits and vegetables into naysayers, especially kids:
- Rice with beans
- Pasta loaded with veggies
- Pita pockets stuffed with avocado, tomato and lettuce
A side of dairy, please
The dairy group is present but not on My Plate. It’s off to the side, depicted as a glass, to symbolize low-fat milk or yogurt. Cheese can go in the protein wedge on the plate, but keep cheese as a minor ingredient, about ¼ per week is good, unless you’re very active or can afford the calories. Cheese is also high in fat, but I’m not giving it up and you don’t have to either – just be smart about it and when you do have it, enjoy it. Of course, low-fat cottage cheese fits into the protein group also, and it’s a terrific food for a light meal or as a “low-tech” protein supplement, and it’s another way to get fruits and vegetables into your diet.
If it’s on Your Plate, then self-educate
The feds are putting $2 million towards publicizing healthy food and diet messages, one at a time, over the next year, but they also stress that it’ll be up to consumers to log on to www.MyPlate.gov to learn the finer details and examples of ways to implement the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. The website is up and running, and it’s pretty user-friendly too, with nice graphics and pictures, and no “nutrition-speak”. Overall, give it a thumbs up.
Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, FADA
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