By now, many of you have heard of MyPlate, the USDA‘s newest healthy eating guide.
For the first time in nearly 20 years, this food guide is not in the shape of a pyramid (for a fascinating look at the evolution of the USDA’s food guides, check out this link). I completed my dietetic internship at the height of MyPlate’s predecessor, MyPyramid, and let me tell you: MyPyramid had a lot of haters. Frequent complaints I heard:
* Discretionary calories what?
* I honestly don’t think I’ll be measuring out 5.5 ounces of meat ‘n’ beans.
* How am I supposed to separate oils from the rest of the categories?
* The thickness of the bars is supposed to represent something? Really?
* Why is there a cartoon of a guy running up the side?
* And so on.
Hungry readers, I hear you. MyPyramid had its flaws. As its successor, MyPlate is far from perfect. HOWEVER, I am on board with the direction in which these food guides have moved. Anecdotal evidence suggests that MyPlate is easier to understand, and I can see why: a simple visual we see several times a day (i.e. a plate of food) is more effective than a pyramid that requires tons of explanation.
MyPlate is far from new, however. I even wrote about something called The New American Plate in 2010. Look familiar?
The UK has something called The Eatwell Plate, which, while not constructed exactly the same as MyPlate, does use a plate as a visual:
The basic idea behind MyPlate is that by filling your plate with foods in the proportions suggested, you’ll eat plenty of nutrient-packed fruits and veggies and less proteins and grain-based carbohydrates. Following MyPlate will also check the amount of food energy you eat (i.e. calories). Of course, if you eat more than one MyPlate in a single meal, or eat from a 15-inch serving platter, you’ll defeat the purpose here.
What happened to all the confusion behind cups, calories, oils, discretionary calories, and physical activity? These factors still count, but they’re not front and center in the general MyPlate graphic. The USDA still recommends certain amounts per day of the different food groups, and they give guidelines for oils and discretionary calories. See here for more info.
Personally, I’m thrilled the MyPlate graphic is so clean and simple. Some people love counting up cups, calories, ounces, etc., but many people don’t.* Giving someone a task they don’t enjoy makes them less likely to do it, and more likely to say “Heck with it, I’m done”. It’s ironic given my quantitative background, but I think separating the numbers from the food is more in line with how we used to eat before we needed professionals to tell us how to eat.
*Some people need to count, i.e. those with diabetes who count carbohydrates, those with fluid restrictions who must keep track of their fluid intake, etc.
All right. All this discussion is getting a little boring. WAKE UP!
I thought long and hard (i.e. for ten seconds) about how best to illustrate what MyPlate means to me as a dietitian. I could go for hours about whole grains this, lean proteins that, but really, who wants that? I’ll sneak it in later, don’t you worry :D
Thus, I’ll illustrate through pictures instead. For example, a typical lunch, served on a 12-inch plate (I usually use a 9-inch plate, but the bread was hanging off the 9-inch plate in a rather unattractive manner. In cases like these, I aim to keep the food within the center circle. Approximately.):
Let’s divide that puppy up.
Hmm, not quite. Notice I didn’t divide the plate into “quarters” like MyPlate. I chose to combine fruits and vegetables, because it’s common to have one or the either at meals (e.g. just fruit at breakfast and just vegetables at dinner).
So, how do I update my plate? For starters, that’s a lot of salmon salad. I made it from 1-6 oz. can salmon, mashed with Greek yogurt, mayo, and rinsed capers, and topped with a spoonful of pesto (I’ve been doing that a lot lately!). I don’t need 6 oz. of protein at lunch, so I’ll take away about a third of it.
Next, the veggies are skimpy. I can’t imagine eating half a plateful of carrots, so how about another veggie to round out the plate, such as these beautiful purple beans from the local farmer’s market?
Divided up, with a totally realistic-looking cup of skim milk Powerpointed into the picture because I forgot to photograph it:
That’ll do nicely.
“But, wait!” I hear you cry. “I have so many questions! What about if you go out to eat? Or if you have a casserole or — gracious — even a smoothie? How do I choose what type of grains, or proteins, or — ?”
Patience, dear reader. To keep this post from becoming unwieldy in length, I’ll continue to feature “Update Your Plate”s that will help answer all your questions. I’m a believer in visual learning.
So, until the next “Update Your Plate”, please feel free to ask me questions, either in the comments or through email or by owl.
Happy Friday, everyone!
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After reading about Nicole’s DO What You DON’T challenge, I knew I needed to step up and challenge myself to do what I
hate strongly dislike: strength-training. While I happily pound the pavement for miles at a time, I can’t carve out enough time to lift a few weights for 20 minutes a week? Not this girl! I don’t care if I have T-Rex arms. No more avoiding!
After my run this morning, I took a little shortcut on the way back to our apartment and stopped by the complex’s tiny weight room. After 20 minutes of lifting, I felt stronger. Well, almost.
I know I’ll get stronger over time. Just you wait. :)
Check out this new oatmeal bowl!
I bought it on the cheap at a Chinese grocery store, so I’m a little suspicious of what’s in the glaze … but, the oatmeal sure tasted good!
After breakfast and a flurry of projects, Peter and I decided to break out the inflatable kayak he bought on the cheap back in January.
Out on the water:
Maddie wanted to be our masthead.
Eyeing a swan in the distance.
The weather was gorgeous today in the Northeast, wasn’t it? :D
Dinner was a chili twist I like to call:
Turkey Chili Surprise
Actually, I don’t like the sound of that one. It reminds me too much of the mystery meat concoctions in grade school.
Flabbergasted Turkey Chili with Spicy Beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
1 can beans of choice (I used red kidney), rinsed very well
1 can diced tomatoes, with liquid
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp sweet paprika
3 Tbsp. oyster sauce (no, I’m not kidding)
Brown turkey in large skillet. Set aside and drain liquid from skillet. Drizzle a little olive oil in the skillet and saute garlic and onion until soft.
Add beans, tomatoes, paste, turkey, and paprika to the onions and garlic. Stir well.
Now, for the secret ingredient! After seeing LeQuan use oyster sauce in one of her delicious dishes, I knew I had to partake.
Peter doesn’t know I added this! While he was eating his chili, he kept saying “Wow, this is really good! What’s that great background taste?” Me: “Oh, you know. Ingredients.” He’s not going to find out exactly what was in his chili until he reads this post, BWAH HA HAAA! ;)
I also added a little Ghost pepper to the chili.
I re-hydrated a (very) small piece of Ghost chile and let it sit in the chili for about a minute (I didn’t want to overdo it).
It ended up having a nice kick, but it wasn’t nearly as spicy as I thought it would be. Could have been due to my sissy use of the chile.
Served with a huge pile of kale chips.
How was it? Delicious! The oyster sauce added a little salty sweetness to the background, a very mild flavor. I’m definitely doing this again.
Before I go … after reading Gina‘s discussion of MyPyramid, I started thinking about how I, as a dietetics student, handle the ubiquitous guidelines that make up dietetics practice. I can see what the USDA was trying to do here – highlight all food groups instead of making grains the base, incorporating physical activity (which is great!) … however, I think the new Pyramid is even more confusing than the old Food Guide Pyramid, or even the Four Food Groups that became obsolete back in 1992 (anyone remember those?).
First of all, the new MyPyramid food groups have different measurements for each group (e.g. cups for fruits and veggies, ounces for beans). A few weeks ago, I was giving a lesson on fruits and veggies to sixth graders, and they were confused about the serving sizes for fruits and veggies. How much is a cup? Why do we count leafy greens and dried fruit differently? Why do we need a chart to tell us how much to eat? Personally, I don’t say to myself at the end of the day, “Have I had my 5.5 ounces of meat and beans?”
For people who need structure when they eat, who like checklists and boundaries to work between, MyPyramid is a great tool for eating a healthy diet. It emphasizes lean protein, low fat dairy, whole grains, and lots of fruits and veggies – all of these concepts are great! :) For me, however, I know I eat healthier when I’m not counting or thinking about what categories I need to fulfill. I eat best when I concentrate on a wide variety of whole foods and eat intuitively (thanks, Christie!).
Everyone is different, which is why I think it can take a long time to find the system that works for you. Patience with and respect for yourself will take you far. :)
Tell me: What are some of your healthiest habits? Let’s think positive this weekend! :D
***Edited to add: *** Check out my guest post on PreventionRD about how this blog got its name! (Thanks, Nicole! :) )
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