Move over food pyramid, here comes MyPlate!  As you may have heard, this week was a banner week for the nutrition community as MyPlate, the Obama Administration’s new food guidance visual, was released on Thursday, June 2, 2011.  After almost two decades (the food pyramid was introduced in 1992) of nutrition guidance based on the premise of a heirarchy of food groups, now all food groups (well most, anyway) are created equally in the confines of a round plate.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction.  With most people more familiar with eating off of a plate than a triangular pyramid, the new visual, which coincides with the latest 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, offers a more simple way to conceptualize how to eat healthy.  The main gist is to “enjoy food, but eat less”.  The plate serves as a universal symbol to create portion control and balance with the food groups – from vegetables to protein to fruits to whole grain, these foods should be on your plate – the question is how much? 

Nutrition science points to the recommendations of filling up half your plate with low-calorie, high-fiber, disease preventing foods with a vast array of colorful vegetables and fruits; the other quarter are grains, preferably look for whole grains in at least 50 percent of the grains you eat; the other quarter is protein – that’s 4-ounces of fish, chicken or turkey breast, lean beef or pork, tofu or 1 cup of cooked beans and peas (soy beans, kidney beans, black beans, chick peas, pinto beans, split peas, etc.).  Remember, if you are a vegan or vegetarian, some grains are perfect protein stand-ins as they contain all of the essential amino acids, such as quinoa and amaranth.    What about dairy?  It’s there on the side of the plate.  So grab a cup of low-fat milk, yogurt and/or 1.5 ounces of cheese at least 2 – 3 times a day.  If your diet is dairy free, go for soymilk, rice milk or nut milk (fortified with calcium and vitamin D).  As for fats, still use them sparingly as the calories add up fast – however, they are necessary and a healthful part of your daily diet.  S0 accessorize your plate with by drizzling olive oil on veggies,  sprinkling ground flax seed in your yogurt and tossing an ounce of nuts (ie., pistachios, almonds or walnuts) over salad or into your brown rice or couscous dishes.  Oh and yes, use less salt and more spices.  Use cumin, coriander, black pepper and turmeric.  Get a spice mill and grind your own whole spices at home for greater flavor, aroma and health benefits (plus, the keep longer in your pantry, if they are left unground until you want to use them!).  

Bon appetit!  Enjoy your food; balance and savor healthy flavors…

What do you think about the MyPlate?  You can find it