There are a lot of weight loss plans out there that focus on eliminating certain foods or entire food groups from your diet as they are presumed to be “unhealthy”, and that by cutting them out of your diet, you will achieve faster weight loss. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I know that variety and moderation are the key components to managing your weight the healthiest way possible, which is why I am a strong proponent of MyPlate.
MyPlate is supported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a graphic representation of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and uses a plate to illustrate the five food groups that are the building blocks to a balanced diet. These include fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.
MyPlate provides you with a visual representation of how the five food groups should be divided on your plate when you sit down at every meal. Utilizing an 8 inch dinner plate, the recommendations are as follows:RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Fruits and vegetables – half the plate
Protein – a quarter of the plate
Grains – a quarter of the plate
Dairy – off to the side of the plate
The USDA recommends that you choose a variety of fruits and vegetables so that you get an equal variety of nutrients and phytochemicals. They also advise you to make at least half of your daily consumption of grains whole grains and to choose lean proteins such as lean meats, chicken, fish, eggs, legumes and soy foods. As for the dairy group, choose fat free or low fat (1%) milk and consume approximately about 3 cups daily. One serving of dairy is, for example, 1 cup of fat free milk, 1 cup of low fat yogurt, 2 slices of cheese or ½ cup frozen yogurt.
Dietary fats and oils are not depicted on MyPlate, however they provide essential nutrients that you need daily. The recommended fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, rather than saturated or trans fats. Oils, which come from many different plants and fish are the recommended sources of fat in that they contain primarily these healthy fats. Oils like canola oil or olive oil and foods like nuts, fish and avocados should be incorporated into your meal plan in order to provide yourself with essential nutrients, such as omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Solid fats like butter or milk fat come from animal products and are usually hydrogenated, meaning they 2 contain saturated and trans fats. These fats should be eaten in limited amounts, since they have been proven to raise “bad” (LDL) cholesterol in the blood.
MyPlate is a meal plan that can be followed by the whole family. It isn’t a diet in the sense of the word as you know it. MyPlate is a way of highlighting what food groups you should be choosing and how much of that food group you should be eating each time you sit down for a meal. The reason why this meal plan is different than the rest is because balanced nutrition is the focal point, and rather than choosing foods for you, it lets you be the chooser and lets you build your plate by simply guiding you on how to make healthy choices.
The dietary recommendations provided in the guidelines and on MyPlate are developed by a group of nationally recognized experts in the field of health and nutrition, known as the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC). The DGAC reviews the latest scientific and medical research and creates a report that provides evidence-based recommendations for the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Through this system, MyPlate will always best reflect the most current scientific research on health and nutrition and is one of the best meal plans to follow to achieve optimal health and weight management.
The Dietary Guidelines that MyPlate depicts are published every 5 years since 1980 as a way to encourage Americans to eat in a healthful manner to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, promote health and prevent disease. There are 28 key recommendations that make up the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, all of which have scientific evidence behind them. Because of their focus on health promotion and disease prevention, much of the evidence behind the guidelines are based on the role food plays in preventing chronic diet-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer and osteoporosis.
For instance, there has been extensive research and evidence behind the link between excessive sodium intake and increased blood pressure, which can lead to diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and congestive heart failure. Similarly, the phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables have been proven to reduce the risk of certain cancers, which is why MyPlate recommends you eat a variety from these food groups. The guidelines also urge consumers to choose a variety of protein foods, whether it be seafood, legumes, nuts or lean meats and to consume less than 10% of your calories from saturated fats. Studies have shown that foods high in saturated fat can increase your levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol, placing you at risk for becoming overweight or developing diseases such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes. Fiber is an important component of a healthy diet and is 3 found in whole grain products, which is why MyPlate recommends that half of your grains are whole grains. Eating adequate amounts of fiber helps to promote regularity, lower blood cholesterol and keep you full longer.
To give you an idea of what a typical day of meals looks like using the MyPlate Meal Plan, see below.
MyPlate Sample Menu
2 slices whole wheat toast
2 egg omelet
1 small orange
1 cup fat free or low fat milk
3 ounces tuna fish, canned in water
1 ounce avocado
1 slice tomato
4 slices of cucumber
1 whole wheat tortilla
½ cup fat free or low fat milk
1 medium peach
2 whole grain rice cakes with 1 tablespoon all natural peanut butter and ½ sliced banana
Chicken & Roasted Vegetable Penne
4 oz. grilled chicken
1 cup whole wheat penne pasta
½ cup broccoli florets, roasted
½ zucchini, sliced and roasted 4 asparagus spears, roasted
1 clove garlic 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 slice watermelon
1 cup fat free Greek yogurt mixed with ½ cup sliced strawberries and 1 tbsp. chopped walnuts