Healthy Eating Tool: MyPlate

Healthy Eating MyPlate.jpg

To continue on the healthy eating topic, have you guys seen this MyPlate graphic? USDA has come up with many graphics over the years, from the Wheel to the Pyramid and now to MyPlate, and it will mostly likely continue updating these images as more is understood about how our diet and nutrition affects our health and wellbeing. USDA first created MyPlate in 2011 to give people a better visual when picking what to eat in their meals. Please remember that this is just one of the tools used in developing healthier eating habits, and it definitely isn't the end all be all.

The main instructions to note from this image are:

  1. Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies.
  2. Limit saturated fats, sodium (salt), and added sugars.
  3. Most of us eat too much protein - limit it to smaller than a quarter of your plate.
  4. Make at least half of your grains whole grains.

Tips to Consider for Each Food Group

Fruits

  • Whole fresh fruits are always better for you than canned, jammed, cooked, syruped, juiced or otherwise processed. Many processed versions of fruit contain a lot of added sugar and have been cooked so many of the healthy vitamins are destroyed. If you do eat processed fruits, make sure it comes in "100% juice."
  • If you are drinking fruit juice, make sure it says "100% fruit juice" and not "cocktail" or "beverage." "Concentrate" means that water was removed from the juice, so what you get is very concentrated juice, with a lot of sugar. Instead of guessing if there was enough water added into a "from concentrate" drink, you are better off just buying "100% juice."

Vegetables

  • The more colorful the variety of vegetables you eat, the more vitamins you are getting into your system. Dark green leafy vegetables include: kale, broccoli, spinach, collard, mustard greens. Red and orange vegetables include: tomatoes, red/yellow peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and pumpkin.
  • Legumes are beans and peas (not including green beans or peas) include: kidney beans, white beans, black beans, lentils, chickpeas, pinto beans, split peas, and edamame.
  • Other veggies include: iceberg lettuce, green beans, onions, cucumbers, cabbage, celery, zucchini, mushrooms, and green peppers.
  • If you are on a special diet, such as a diabetic diet, limit the starchy vegetables: white potatoes, corn, green peas, green lima beans, plantains, and cassava.
  • Best ways to cook veggies are by steaming, roasting, or sautéing.

Grains

  • Common words to look for in the ingredients list: whole grain, whole wheat, wheat berries, rolled oats and oatmeal, brown rice, brown rice flour, wild rice, quinoa, buckwheat.
  • Less common names of whole grains: cracked wheat, crushed wheat, whole-wheat flour, graham flour, entire-wheat flour, bromated whole-wheat flour, whole durum wheat flour, millet, triticale, teff, amaranth, sorghum.

Dairy

  • Choose fat-free, low-fat, or soy milk, cheese, and yogurt to limit saturated fats in diet.
  • Cream, sour cream, and cream cheese are not considered dairy as they are very high in fat and very low in calcium. Replace them with low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Protein

  • Choose leaner cuts of red meat, pork, and poultry. In red meat, you want less marbling (fat). "Choice" or "select" cuts have less fat than "prime." Pick the lowest percentage of fat in ground meat.
  • Cut away excess fat before cooking.
  • Choose more seafood, beans and peas, unsalted nuts and seeds, soy products, eggs.

Now for SMART Goals!

Which one of these tips do you see yourself going through with? As USDA promotes: "Small shifts in food choices—over the course of a week, a day, or even a meal—can make a difference in working toward a healthy eating pattern that works for you."