Last week Michelle Obama and the US Agriculture Department replaced the 20 year old food pyramid with a simple icon, “My Plate.”
My Plate is now the quintessential guide for healthy eating: a plate divided into quarters of slightly varying sizes representing how to create a healthy meal. It contains a larger quarter for vegetables, slightly smaller for grains, and slightly smaller for both fruits and protein. The hope is that it will help eaters avoid oversized portions and eat more nutritious meals.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said after almost 20 years of preaching nutrition through a food pyramid that USDA officials now say was overly complex, obesity rates have skyrocketed. The new symbol is simple and gives diners an idea of what should be on their plates when they sit down at the dinner table.
In fact, it appears only one quarter of people who recognize the food pyramid ever used it. Further surveys show people are confused about what they should eat and most have no concept of portion sizes or balancing calories for weight control.
I heard about the “Plate Method” when Maudene Nelson, registered dietitian and diabetes educator at the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University, reviewed a myth for my book, “50 Diabetes Myths That Can Ruin Your Life and the 50 Diabetes Truths That Can Save It”. In myth number 26, “There is one specific diabetic diet I should follow” Nelson called “the plate method” for creating healthful meals magic. It’s in the Tips Box on page 142. She gave a little more specific instruction:
Fill half your plate with any variety of colorful veggies low in carbohydrates, such as asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, eggplant, carrots, or cauliflower. Fill one-quarter of your plate with carbohydrate-dense foods such as potatoes, rice, beans, corn, or legumes, and fill the remaining quarter with lean protein such as chicken, fish, lamb, pork, or beef. Meals made with the Plate Method naturally contain a moderate amount of carbohydrates, little fat and cholesterol, and a good amount of fiber.
Funny thing is with the exception of fruit on my plate, I use fruit for snacks, this is how I typically eat. Dinner is chicken or fish, beans and a green veggie.
Seems Mr. Vilsack should have come to me years ago!