The Pyramid crumbles…planning healthy meals just got simpler

It’s a top story in the world of nutrition, and I think it’s kind of a big deal.  The familiar Food Guide Pyramid, most recently called MyPyramid, has been replaced.  For at least the next five years we have MyPlate.

The concept is great—to translate the dietary guidelines onto your family’s dinner plates.  It’s now simpler to picture what a healthy meal looks like, in the right proportions, in the form that we see it in front of us. In diabetes education, we’ve used the “plate method” for years to help paint a picture of a healthy meal.  It’s a simple method of meal-planning demonstrating that healthy eating does not have to be overly difficult.  But it’s also important that we don’t oversimplify.  What types of fruit/fruit products should be on that plate?  What types of meat, vegetables and grains?  It’s still possible to build a perfectly unhealthy meal using MyPlate.  Take this for example: a double cheeseburger with French fries, fried green beans dipped in salad dressing, ice cream and a fried apple pie…

It’s extremely important to further define what constitutes a healthy choice for each section of the plate.  The website www.choosemyplate.gov is a great guide, giving general guidelines for the amount of food to consume from each food group, key concepts and foods to limit.  MyPlate is also perfect for diabetes meal-planning since the proportion of carbohydrates pictured is correct.  Nutrition and meal-planning, especially for those with diabetes or other health conditions, should be individualized.  So it’s important to see a Registered Dietitian or Certified Diabetes Educator to address personalized goals and questions.

A couple other points about the new MyPlate:

The fats/oils group is not pictured on the plate.  Research tells us that certain fats are good for us because they help to control cholesterol.  So be sure that plant fats are included in your diet regularly.

The term “discretionary calories” has been replaced with “empty calories,” a popular, but effective term for calories without much nutritional value.  Some examples of “empty calories” are sweets and sugars.  The message here is to limit these types of food and choose more foods that are a complete nutritional package.

I guess the running man (the figure that used to take the stairs up the side of the Pyramid) fell off.  I thought it was a fantastic move in 2005 when physical activity was added to the Pyramid.  This was, and is still, a key message!  A healthy lifestyle is about finding a balance between food and activity.  I’m disappointed that he’s gone.

Try building a meal with MyPlate.  Once you’re familiar with the food groups, it’s pretty easy.  Referencing the plate reminds you of what you’re missing and how much of the plate each food group should take.

Here’s mine: 2-3 ounces grilled chicken breast, a medium baked potato topped with light margarine and non-fat, plain Greek yogurt, green beans sautéed in olive oil, steamed carrots, a glass of skim milk and strawberries drizzled with honey.

What’s your MyPlate meal?
Please let me know by “leaving a reply” below.  I’d also love to know what you think of MyPlate!  If you have any other questions about the new guidelines or how to make them fit your lifestyle, please contact us for an individualized appointment or visit our webpage for more information.

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