The New Food Icon — MyPlate (and Weekly Meal Plan)

by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on June 6, 2011

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I’m exhausted coming off a weekend of two kiddie birthday parties and a BBQ we hosted. I realize this way too much for Big A after witnessing her meltdown at my mother in law’s last night.

I’ve learned my lesson: one party a weekend is enough.

So we are easing into this week with some easy meals but will be trying some new stuff as the week progresses. I’ve been eyeing this baked chicken and shrimp recipe for a while. We grilled some shrimp over the weekend and it was yummy!

For meal planning ideas see Org Junkie.

Monday: Quesadillas with toppings

Tuesday: Spaghetti with meatballs, bread, roasted broccoli and salad

Wednesday: Kids Choice

Thursday: Garlic Chicken, mashed sweet potatoes, fruit and salad

Friday: Grilled Teriyaki Shrimp with brown rice salad, fruit and roasted cauliflower

The New Food Icon is Here — MyPlate

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Last week there was big news in the nutrition world. The Food Guide Pyramid has been replaced with the new food icon — MyPlate.

This article in the Huffington post reflects on the history of food guides. Food guides are not new — the government has been making recommendations for more than 100 years. There has been The Basic 5, The Basic 7, The Basic 4 and in 1992 the Food Guide Pyramid. In 2005 the pyramid got a makeover with MyPyramid, but that never really took off.

The hope is that MyPlate will make it easier for people to make healthy choices. The idea is to portion your plate with half fruits and vegetables, a protein source and a serving of grains. And don’t forget the side of dairy.

The key messages that go along with the plate are:

• Enjoy your food, but eat less.
• Avoid oversized portions.
• Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
• Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk.
• Make at least half your grains whole grains.
• Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals and choose foods with lower numbers.
• Drink water instead of sugary drinks

What I like? It’s a nice visual that is really easy to understand. Simple is always best when it comes to visual food guides.

It’s shortcomings? Anytime you go simple, you leave things out. Fat is not included and it may be hard for people to translate this guide to mixed dishes such as lasagna and burritos. It also doesn’t take into account the different nutritional needs of children, which I’ll be talking more about in my continuation of the Kids’ Nutrition Series.

In the end it’s all about balancing the plate, which is always good. Put your food on a plate, sit down and enjoy it.

What do you think?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Heidi Diller June 6, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Hi MaryAnn- I need your thoughts on this new plate and how to use it with young children. I am a grocery store dietitian and have a store tour we do with young children (PreK- 2 grade mostly). I am dumping the food pyramid but I am unsure how to incorportate this tool with young children that cant read. The plate doesnt have food pictures and to a non-reader looks like blobs on a plate. Curious how you would introduce this concept to young children…or not. I think this just may be an adult conception and leave it at that.

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Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD June 6, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Heidi — I’m sure they’ll eventually come up with more visuals for young kids but for now they only have food pyramid info. What were you using before? FGP might work best for this age group — talking about eating from a variety of food groups.

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Heather June 6, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Aside from including dairy as a required (or recommended) part of a healthy diet, I think it makes a lot of sense. Your critiques of it make sense, too.

I wonder if things like this actually make any difference, though. I suspect that people who ignored the number of servings we should eat of fruits and veggies are going to ignore that half of the plate. People might be surprised at how small the protein portion is, though…

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Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD June 6, 2011 at 9:15 pm

I think the same thing about food guides…not sure if people really use them. Will be interesting to see if this one has more staying power!

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AKeo June 6, 2011 at 6:01 pm

I really like the plate image. The pyramid was a little too difficult for me to translate into my daily life. 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables sounded like a lot (when I didn’t really know what a serving was, and I thought I’d have to eat veggies all day long!).
The plate is easy for me to visualize at meal time. And since it came out last week, that’s what I’ve been doing. For my son, and myself. I make half the plate full of fruits and veggies. The other parts hold the rest.

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Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD June 6, 2011 at 9:16 pm

AKeo — glad you’re finding it helpful. Balancing the plate is key. But I find with Big A smaller portions of veggies work best. Too much and she’s overwhelmed!

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Irith Mashiah June 9, 2011 at 12:14 am

This is something I should keep in mind everyday before I prepair my meals. Thank you for this advice!

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Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD June 9, 2011 at 4:39 pm

You’re welcome!

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Tammy (Healthy Kids Challenge R.D.) June 14, 2011 at 1:45 pm

I saw that article in the Huffington Post too. I think it’s always best to stick to simple, easy changes and that includes with any food guide the government produces. I’d like to offer a thought for Heidi about the young children and teaching with MyPlate. We teach the colors and shapes a lot with young children, and use food pictures cut out of magazines or , if available, food picture cards on cardstock or laminated. Think of red fruits and green vegetables that could fill up half the plate, or half of the circle. If you need, we do have food picture cards for educational use, too.

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Heidi Diller June 15, 2011 at 9:46 am

Tammy- I like your idea however we are teaching children in a grocery with LIVE food. Often the teachers go back to class and continue the learning with magazine pictures so I can recommend that to them. So here is my latest dilemna, we hit the cereal aisle first to talk about why we need a healthy breakfast and with the older children we teach label reading. The problem with this new plate concept is where do you show the cereal bowl? While the food pyramid had its problems, at least all type of meals could be applied. I seem to be stuck at breakfast! Heidi

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Heather June 15, 2011 at 12:10 pm

A bowl of cereal only fills two of the four food groups… If you consider the cereal to take up the grains portion and the milk to take up the dairy portion, then you have produce left to fill in. (A bowl of cereal isn’t a healthy breakfast, in my opinion, though it’s better than many other breakfast options…) Kudos for teaching your kids to read labels!

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