My Plate Offers a Guide to Better Eating

My Plate Logo

With the holidays soon here, we can’t help but think about food. Food plays a key role in holiday celebrations, whether it’s a favorite fat-laden side dish, snacks, cookies or candy. While it’s OK to have a special treat every now and then, what and how we eat on a regular basis is more important. That’s where a new tool called My Plate comes in.

Last year, the government shelved the food pyramid we learned about in school for My Plate – a circular image split into four sections to better illustrate how much of a particular food group you should eat on a daily basis. Using a dinner plate to show what our meals should look like is a good idea since it’s something people see on a daily basis and is easy to understand. On My Plate, red is for fruits, green is vegetables, orange is for grains and purple is for proteins. Sitting next to the plate is a little blue circle representing dairy.

The goal is to make each meal mirror what’s on My Plate. Fruits and veggies combine to make up half of the meal with proteins and grains each filling about a quarter of the circle. When it comes to choosing the grains and proteins on the plate, the U.S. D.A. encourages people choose whole grains over refined ones (like those found in white rice and commercial baked goods) and healthier forms of protein such as fish and chicken rather than red meat. When it comes to dairy, choose low fat options, such as skim milk. There’s no room on this chart for sugar-filled juices and soft drinks.

There’s another part of My Plate that wasn’t ever part of the food pyramid – and that’s staying active. Adults should get 2 hours and 30 minutes of heart-pumping exercise each week while children and teens should get 60 minutes of exercise daily.

Every time you sit down to eat, look at your plate and see how closely it resembles My Plate. Is most of your plate filled with grains or proteins, with veggies taking up a tiny sliver? Try to think about ways to get more veggies and fruits into all of your meals.

By following the My Plate guidance at every meal, your overall health will improve as you lose weight. A healthy weight means you’re less likely to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or other problems related to carrying around too much weight. These changes will help make sure you’ll be around to enjoy many holiday celebrations to come.

For more information on My Plate, visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov/.

Scott Schuldes is a certified family nurse practitioner and associate medical director at ThedaCare Physicians-Hilbert. He can be reached at scott.schuldes@thedacare.org.