How MyPlate can Change the Way Your Family Eats

All About MyPlate

Have you ever heard of MyPlate? It’s a tool used to help consumers, like you and me, consider what’s going on our plates at mealtime. The USDA, along with First Lady Michelle Obama, came up with the idea to use a place setting including fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy as a visual to remind Americans to eat healthfully.

So how can MyPlate help you when it comes time to feed your family?

Besides the visual reminding you to include foods from all of the food groups, there are other guidelines of the MyPlate message. Here are some of them.

  • Enjoy your food while paying attention to hunger and fullness cues. Learn to recognize when you need to eat and when you’ve had enough, and help your children to be aware of these cues too. Before dishing out another serving, have your child check in with his body to see if he is really still hungry. And keep portion size in mind. When ordering at a restaurant, if you receive a huge portion, separate it into an amount you can eat and bring the rest home or share it.
  • Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. Include a variety of colors and preparation. Choose red, orange, dark green and others to optimize exposure to a variety of nutrients, and offer variation in the preparation (raw, steamed, roasted, etc.) to vary the texture and flavor.
  • Choose whole grains. Whole grains, such as oats, quinoa, brown rice, and whole wheat, are higher in fiber than refined grains. Also, studies show that eating whole grains can lower risk of many chronic diseases. If you and your family aren’t used to eating whole grains, start by making small changes and increase from there. In our home, I didn’t realize that I usually made old fashioned oats on Tuesdays until one day, my 11-year-old declared excitedly, “It’s oatmeal Tuesday!” From then on, I make sure the oatmeal bar is open on Tuesdays at our house.
  • Switch to skim milk or 1% milk. You’ll get the same amount of calcium and other important nutrients from milk while decreasing saturated fat and calorie intake.
  • Reduce intake of foods high in solid fats, refined sugar, and salt. Fatty meats, like ribs, bacon, and hot dogs, cake, cookies, ice cream, sweetened drinks, and similar items should be viewed as occasional treats and not everyday foods.
  • Reduce high sodium foods. Choose lower sodium versions of foods and watch how much salt you add to the foods that you prepare.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Sweetened drinks, like sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks add unneeded sugar and calories to the diet, and replacing them with water is an excellent step in reducing empty calories. Promoting drinking water in children is important for starting a lifelong habit of having water

Remember, variety is important. Since no single food supplies all of the nutrients we need in adequate amounts, choosing a variety of foods within a food group to get varied nutrients is best.

For instance, meat is a great source of protein. But where else can you get protein? Eggs, nuts, nut butters, seafood and legumes are also excellent sources.

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