Move over food pyramid, introducing the new Food Plate!
After years of touting the virtues of the pyramid, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has finally dumped that whole idea in favor of a more user friendly and relatable plate as the newest icon for healthy eating. This is definitely a step in the right direction since for many people the original pyramid was confusing with all the serving sizes, and the colored stripes of the last version was way too vague to be used practically as a stand alone tool. For that pyramid, users had to go to the USDA website to get more detailed information.. not something that most people ever took the time to do.
While the Food Plate still isn't perfect in that it doesn't tell people how much to eat and it doesn't readily help with composite foods (like suburban favs the casserole and stew, for instance), this new food plate does offer a more useful, quick and easily understood visual to remind us of how we should eat. The biggest message is that nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables should dominate half of our diet, leaning more towards vegetables than fruit. This alone can lessen the tendency to overeat super-sized portions of calorie laden foods. Additionally, grains (half of which should be whole) ought to make up more of our diet than protein, something that is a-typical in our standard American diet.
Here are more recommendations according to the new guidelines released in January, 2011:
o Enjoy your food, but eat less.
o Avoid oversized portions.
o Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
o Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
o Make at least half your grains whole grains.
o Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen
meals—and choose foods with lower numbers.
o Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
For more information visit the new USDA Food Plate website.