What is MyPlate and Why It’s Important

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In 2011, former First Lady, Michelle Obama, announced a redesign to the way we are reminded as to what a healthy plate should look like. The Choose MyPlate was designed to help combat childhood obesity and for a healthier America.

I can attest to favoring the MyPlate campaign over the previous models used as it certainly can be helpful for anyone looking to reach personal health and fitness goals.

choose myplate portion control plate

Previous to Choose MyPlate several models were used in hopes of teaching Americans how to properly choose the most nutritious foods.

A Brief History of the USDA Food Guides

Looking back on these other models, their depictions of healthy were unclear and difficult to follow. At one time, there was simply a poster that said, “For Health…eat some food from each group…every day! In addition to the basic 7…eat any other foods you want.”  (source, Diet Culture Timeline)

The old poster for the dietary guidelines

Over the years these food guides changed and never seemed to do what was really needed:  offering a real-life look at what to eat and what to eat from: a plate!

With Choose MyPlate you are visually seeing what types of foods you should be serving instead of looking at a pyramid of colors or a picture of a wheel.

Choose MyPlate is simple to understand as it clearly shows a plate split into quarters to represent 4 of the food groups as well as a side circle for dairy. It is a clear way to encourage people to consume the highly recommended ½ plate of fruits and veggies.

This goal, highly encouraged for all Americans, wasn’t clear, and sometimes not indicated in the slightest, when looking at those past models and food guides.

The USDA choose myplate icon

MyPlate shows food group diversity. For example, previously there was a meat group and it seemed to emphasize animal proteins as the sole source.

With MyPlate, it is simply “protein” as a way to encourage Americans to choose all sources of protein; animal and plant protein sources.

Choose MyPlate also does not imply that we must make a choice between which dairy product we are serving. As seen in other models, the choices suggested were cheeses, milk and yogurt. MyPlate clearly acknowledges the way food preferences and lifestyles choices have and will continue to change.

What is the purpose of MyPlate?

In simplest terms it is a way to simplify what has been used over the last several years in efforts to help build a healthy plate and give understanding to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines.

  • Balance calories.
  • Enjoy all foods but eat less…avoid large food portions.
  • Make half your grains whole. This will help assure you are getting enough fiber.
  • Switch dairy products to lower fat options and know that it is ok to choose dairy alternatives.
  • Make half your plate fruits and veggies and vary your options…think about a rainbow of colors here throughout the week.
  • Eat foods that are less in saturated and trans fats.
  • Choose lower sodium foods by becoming familiar with and comparing food labels.
  • Choose water over high calorie drinks.

The above thoughts and guidelines are much simpler to stick with when using a MyPlate at all meals. Just remember that taking small steps are always better when trying to make healthy choices a new (forever) lifestyle.

what is myplate and why it's important

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