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The Jump from the USDA’s Food Pyramid to “My Plate”

For nearly 20 years, school children and their parents alike suffered through the labyrinth of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Pyramid. Last year, the USDA scrapped the confusing and outmoded pyramid for an easier model: My Plate. With its streamlined, more straightforward approach, My Plate will help consumers maintain a balanced diet, particularly if they take a disciplined approach at the grocery store.

My Plate

Realizing the public’s diet was unhealthy and uninformed, the USDA developed the visual and easy-to-follow Choose My Plate system. Designed to be simple enough that children can use it, My Plate clears away the clutter of the old Food Pyramid and adjusts the American diet to reflect the latest nutrition research. My Plate incorporates new guidelines that limit protein and dairy and make veggies and fruit half of every meal.

Putting My Plate into Practice

Consumers may find it easier to incorporate the My Plate guidelines into their families’ diets with the help of these guides:

The Cleveland Clinic has put together a grocery-shopping guide for maintaining a heart-healthy kitchen.

Dr. Oz provides a comprehensive 100-item list of essential foods.

The Environmental Working Group created the Good Food on a Tight Budget guide with a shopping list, recipes and tips.

The Food Network offers a Smart Shopping Guide for Healthy Meals with tips and ideas.

The Smartphone app Fooducate allows shoppers to scan products while in the store. The application provides an overall nutrition grade, as well as nutritional information.

Fruits & Veggies: More Matters has a database of over 1,000 recipes just for vegetables and fruits.

Recent nutrition research shows that fresh, local food is more nutritious. Locavore is a free app that helps consumers find the freshest, locally grown and produced food. helps families build health diets by providing guides to the best choices at the store.

Consumers plan their grocery shopping with smartphone apps like Our Groceries and Grocery Gadgets.

ShopWell’s guide Maximizing MyPlate Guidelines helps consumers customize the program into recipes that work for their family.

The USDA provides Sample Menus and Recipes on its ChooseMyPlate website.

The True Food Shoppers’ Guide helps consumers avoid genetically modified foods.

Sample Meal

The My Plate sample menus and recipes for a 2000 calorie diet, if followed, would provide a daily average of 6.2 ounces of whole and refined grains, 2.6 cups of vegetables, 2.1 cups of fruit, 3.1 cups of dairy, just under 6 ounces of protein and 245 calories from added fats and sugars. Each person would also consume 96 grams of protein, 30 grams of dietary fiber, over 1400 milligrams of calcium and less than 30% of total calories from fat.

Hawaiian Pizza is a typical My Plate dinner. Your shopping list for a family of 4 is simple:

§  One cheese pizza, thin crust
§  4 ounces lean ham
§  1 cup pineapple
§  1 cup mushrooms
§  2 tablespoons of olive oil
§  4 cups (no more than 1 bag) of mixed salad greens
§  ½ cup oil and vinegar dressing
§  1 quart of skim milk

The recipe is equally easy and takes no more than 15 minutes to complete.

Prepare the pizza according to the package directions (or remove it from take away box). Separately, warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Slice the mushrooms and sauté them in the skillet until cooked through – about 5 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the heat.

Dice the ham and pineapple into one-inch pieces, if not already done. Top the pizza with the mushrooms, ham and pineapple. Place in the pizza in a warm oven for a couple of minutes to warm the toppings if desired.

Separately, toss the greens with the dressing. Cut the pizza into 8 pieces. Place the salad in four individual bowls. Share the milk. Serve.

Thanks to helpful guidelines like My Plate, it is now easier than ever for kids to learn proper nutrition. With its simple, colorful, easy-to-follow graphic instruction, will help parents teach nutrition lessons that will last a lifetime.

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