In 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled its new MyPlate food guidance system to illustrate the recommendations laid out by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The MyPlate symbol encourages consumers to make healthier food choices by reminding them to be mindful of what – and how much – they’re putting on their plate. The new icon emphasizes balance and variety and promotes making smart choices from the fruit, vegetable, grains, protein, and dairy food groups.
Grains – Make at least half your grains whole. You should eat 6 1-oz. equivalents of grains each day.
- Eat at least 3 1-oz. equivalents of whole grain cereals, breads, rice or pasta each day.
- A 1-oz. equivalent of grains is approximately 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of cold cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice, cereal, oatmeal, or pasta.
- Whole grains include oats/oatmeal, whole cornmeal, whole wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), and brown rice.
Fruits and Vegetables – Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the Fruit Group, while any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts as a member of the Vegetable Group. Fruits and vegetables may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried/dehydrated, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed/mashed.
- Buy fresh fruits in season when they may be less expensive and at their peak flavor. Buy fruits that are dried, frozen, and canned (in water or 100% juice) as well as fresh, so that you always have a supply on hand.
- Choose a variety of vegetables. Include dark greens, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, starchy vegetables, among others, in your weekly diet.
- Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.
Dairy – Milk and other dairy foods are rich in calcium. The amount of food you need from the Dairy Group depends on age.
- Select low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, cheese, and other milk products.
- Calcium-fortified soymilk is part of the Dairy Group, while foods made from milk that have little or no calcium are not included, such as butter, cream, and cream cheese.
Meats and Beans – Choose lean sources of protein. All foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds are considered part of the Protein Foods Group.
- The leanest beef cuts include round steaks and roasts, top loin, top sirloin, and chuck shoulder and arm roasts. The leanest pork choices include pork loin, tenderloin, center loin, and ham.
- Bake, broil, or grill your meat rather than frying it.
- Vary your sources of protein, making sure to include more fish, beans, nuts, peas, or soy products.
Empty Calories – Limit your intake of solid fats and added sugars. These ingredients add calories to food, but offer few or no nutrients.
- Most of your fat sources should come heart healthy or plant food sources, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.
- Limit your consumption of solid fats, such as butter, stick margarine, and lard, and any foods containing them.
- Check the Nutrition Facts label to make sure the foods you are purchasing are low in saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium.
- Select foods and beverages that are low in added sugars, since they offer little or no nutritional value.
For more in-depth information, visit the Choose Myplate Web site.