For years in school, we were reminded of the basic food groups and the recommended daily amounts of each with the USDA’s food pyramid. While it was the first attempt at reconciling some type of visual aid with how much and what types of food people were supposed to eat, the pyramid itself was overly complex and tried to share too many nutrition facts at once. In 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled the first look at the new MyPlate guidelines–a simpler system for healthy eating.
MyPlate recommends food proportions on a simple plate design. Half of the plate is filled with produce–fruits and vegetables–while the other half is divided between grains and proteins.
This simple set-up and emphasis on fresh produce has been well-received by nutritionists and the public alike. Dairy products are shown set off to the side and desserts have been eschewed from the plate completely. The large amounts of additional information that cluttered the original food pyramid are now all contained on the choosemyplate.gov website and social media accounts.
The main MyPlate guidelines for food show a general shift towards a more holistic approach to eating and nutrition. The key takeaways from the program are to:
- Focus on fruits
- Vary your veggies
- Make at least half of y0ur grains whole
- Go lean with protein
- Get your calcium-rich foods
MyPlate guidelines were primarily introduced as a tool to battle the ongoing obesity epidemic. 35 percent of adults 20 years and older are obese, while almost 70 percent of all U.S. adults are overweight (including obesity).
To combat these statistics, ChooseMyPlate.gov combines practical tips and tracking tools for maintaining a healthy weight, as well as healthy recipes, physical activity guidelines, and food plans for special population groups, such as vegetarians.
To help with weight management, MyPlate offers some general guidelines for activity and calorie intake. These include:
- Make better choices
- Decrease portion sizes
- Eat fewer empty calories
- When eating out, make better choices
- Cook more often at home
- Increase physical activity
- Decrease screen time
MyPlate also ties into the already established Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which recommend daily activity amounts for optimal health. In particular, these guidelines recommend that children and adolescents should perform one hour or more of physical activity every day and adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity.
While these government guidelines are fairly straightforward and obvious for health-conscious individuals, they go a long way towards creating a united front on health.
Image from the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion