The USDA MyPlate was based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. MyPlate was designed to help American consumers eat healthfully and make better food choices. The image has been changed from a pyramid to a more familiar place setting visual to show the five food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, and dairy.
Vegetables and Fruit
- Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, putting the emphasis on the vegetables. Always vary your choices so you get a good range of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and other nutrients found in different produce. Choosing dark leafy greens and red, yellow, and orange produce gives you the variety of nutrients your body needs.
- Choosing whole fruits and vegetables over juices increases your intake of fiber, decreases your calorie intake, and keeps you full longer!
- Aim for 9 or more servings of vegetables and fruit per day. Keep in mind that about one cup raw or ½ cup cooked vegetables or fruit counts as a serving.
Try something new: Try sautéing rainbow Swiss chard with oil, garlic, and lemon.
- One quarter of your plate should include a whole grain. Options include whole wheat bread, brown rice, oats, quinoa, whole-grain pasta, bulgur, barley, and many others.
- Try to limit your intake of refined grains like white rice and white bread. Refining grains removes the endospore and bran of the grain; along with it goes the fiber, B vitamins, and vitamin E.
Try something new: Quinoa is a delicious (gluten-free) whole grain that’s easy to make: just follow the simple instructions on the box then try adding some toasted pine nuts and feta cheese crumbles.
- Fill a quarter of your plate with lean proteins like fish, poultry, legumes, beans, and nuts.
- Choose red meat, cold cuts, and processed meats like sausage and bacon less often.
- Animal protein contains more saturated fat than plant protein. By choosing plant protein options such as beans, legumes, nuts, and tofu, you are choosing less fat and more vitamins and minerals. You even get extra fiber when you choose plant sources of protein.
- The USDA recommends 5-6 ounce equivalents of protein in a day.
Try something new: Lentils are a great source of protein and fiber. They taste great in soups, as a lentil salad, or mixed into pasta sauce.
- Include 2 or 3 servings of low fat dairy or calcium-enriched products per day.
Try something new: Kefir is a probiotic-rich yogurt drink that is great by itself or mixed into a fruit smoothie.
Other things to remember
- Try to limit your intake of added sugars. The USDA recommendation for individuals who need 2000 calories per day is 260 “discretionary calories” or “empty” calories. These include not only added sugar but solid fats as well. These empty calories provide no nutrients, only added calories. They can be avoided by choosing nonfat milk instead of whole milk, avoiding sugary cereal and soft drinks, as well as other sweets, fried foods, and high fat foods like cheese and red meat. Choose unsweetened beverages, baked fish or chicken instead of fried, and smaller portions of naturally high fat foods like cheese.
- Include healthier oils such as olive oil and other plant oils with your meals and limit saturated and trans fat. In general, oils (liquid at room temperature) are full of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which have more health benefits than the saturated and trans fats found in solid sources of fat like butter, margarine, lard, and partially hydrogenated oil.
- Remember to always stay active! While no longer part of the official MyPlate, physical activity remains as important as ever. The USDA recommends 2 ½ hours of physical activity per week for adults. Physical activity should include both aerobic activity and strengthening exercises. For children, the recommendation is one hour of physical activity each day of the week.