Half Fruits and Veggies
An entire half of your plate should include fruits and vegetables. This is important because these are the very foods that most people do not eat enough of. Low-calorie and full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, fresh and minimally-processed plants are the best foods to eat for disease prevention and weight management. And be smart: don't make half your plate iceberg lettuce and French fries. Go for dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, and bright orange colors as in carrots and squash. Try to get a variety.
One Quarter Grain
Most people eat far too many grains, so this is an effort to decrease portion size. Grains are found in breads, cookies, crackers, baked goods, pastas, etc. The USDA suggests at least half your grains should be whole, but I disagree -- there is no reason to not make them all whole. Whole grains are far healthier than refined grains. This does take some effort of your part to prepare your own, because unfortunately, most of the choices in restaurants and most of the processed food products in grocery stores are made with refined wheat, which lacks nutritional value. Go for sprouted whole grain breads, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, or whole grain pasta.
One Quarter Protein
If you are interested in eating a more nutrient-rich diet, beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, nuts, and seeds all fall into this category. Otherwise, choose lean meats and decrease portion size. Look for grass-fed beef and hormone and antibiotic-free animal products. The protein category is a little misleading because whole grains and vegetables contain protein, too. The focus here does not need to always be on animal protein. You will get more fiber, healthier fats, and abundant phytochemicals by opting for vegetarian proteins.
This is the piece I would like to see omitted from the new MyPlate. Cow's milk is not a necessary component of the human diet, and many people (myself included) are perfectly healthy and actually feel better avoiding it. You can get all the nutrients you need and more from plant-based foods such as leafy greens and beans. Many people are deceived into thinking that they need to consume dairy for bone health. I encourage you to question this myth and look into the research where you will find this is not the case.
MyPlate is a fantastic step up from MyPyramid. Its straightforwardness makes it easy to visualize your food choices. Rather than load up your plate with pasta, perhaps you will cut down on your usual portion, add a giant serving of steamed broccoli, and a half cup of beans. MyPlate is a tool to assist you and your family to better manage portion proportions, help you to plan your meals, and eat in a manner that will make you feel great and reduce your risk of disease.
Corinne Goff is a Registered Dietitian who is absolutely passionate about food, health, and nutrition. Corinne has a BA in Psychology from Salve Regina University and a BS in Nutrition from the University of Rhode Island. As a nutritionist, her objective is to help people reach their health goals by offering a personalized holistic approach to wellness that incorporates natural foods and lifestyle changes. She works together with her clients to develop daily improvements that they feel comfortable with and that are realistic. She believes that the focus on wholesome, nutrient-rich, real food, is the greatest possible way to become healthier, have more energy, decrease chances of chronic disease, and feel your best. If you would be interested in working with Corinne one-on-one, sign-up for FitDay Dietitians.